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Lippi the big man on campus

By Tang Zhe in Qingyuan, Guangdong | China Daily | Updated: 2012-10-10 06:49

 Lippi the big man on campus

Guangzhou Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi (left), who was named head of the Evergrande Football School, receives a soccer ball with the Chinese characters for "China" inscribed upon it as a gift from Cai Zhenhua, deputy director of the State General Administration of Sport, at the opening ceremony of the school in Qingyuan, Guangdong province on Tuesday. Provided to China Daily

Italian coach will be the new head of the Evergrande Football School

Italian coach Marcello Lippi has taken on another role in Guangzhou after being appointed head of the Evergrande Football School on Tuesday.

The 64-year-old received a three-year appointment at the opening ceremony of the soccer school, which is in Qingyuan, Guangdong province.

"I just came to China a few months ago, and I am honored to be named as the school's head," Lippi, the coach of top CSL side Guangzhou Evergrande, said. "I have been in Italian soccer for so many years, but I have never seen such a big and nice school, and I believe there is not another one of this standard in any other country.

"Soccer should start from the youth. I have a lot of experience in this area, and I am confident that China will have its own soccer stars coming out from this school."

According to Xu Jiayin, boss of Guangzhou Evergrande, Lippi will take part in the school's strategic planning while Liu Jiangnan, the former director of the Guangzhou Sports Bureau, will take charge of its daily management and operations.

"I had a clear target in mind when I invited Lippi to Guangzhou, and that was to develop the Chinese players," Xu said. "The soccer school is a great channel to realize that aim and I was certain the coach would accept this job.

"While he will mostly take part in drawing the outline of the soccer curriculum, that should not distract him too much from coaching the professional team," Xu said, adding that Lippi would not be paid extra for taking on his new role.

Evergrande came to an agreement with Real Madrid to jointly build a world-class soccer school when the La Liga giant made a promotional tour to China in August 2011.

With a target of 3,150 students - aged between 7 and 12 - in the school's first year, Evergrande launched its national testing program and admissions in April, reaching 65,106 primary schools in 24 provinces and regions around the country.

However, only 1,086 students have enrolled to date as the image of Chinese soccer has taken a beating in recent years and many parents are unwilling to let their children take up the sport, the club said.

"We have spent more than 100 million yuan ($15.9 million) to organize the testing and admission process," Xu said. "We thought that there would be no problem selecting 3,150 children from the 46 million we covered, but the results turned out to be not as positive as we had imagined.

"China has a huge population, but not many play soccer," Xu said. "We must keep a close eye on the talent threshold to assemble the best - regardless of the number."

Xu said the goal of the Evergrande Football School is to sweep the boys' and girls' titles at the national and continental Under-13 championships within three years, and also to send outstanding players abroad in eight to 10 years.

Youth development is also part of the long-term picture of the club, which is chasing its second consecutive league title.

"The short-term target of Evergrande is to build a powerful team, therefore we set a high standard in choosing domestic and foreign players - and the coach as well - to realize the goal," Xu said.

"Our long-term target is to develop the youth. I hope Evergrande will eventually boast a formidable, pure Chinese lineup in the next eight to 10 years and also produce our own international soccer stars."

Cai Zhenhua, deputy director of the State General Administration of Sport, and Wei Di, vice-president of the Chinese Football Association, also attended the school's opening ceremony.

Wei called for more social investment to help boost Chinese soccer.

"Youth development is a huge amount of work and requires lots of efforts and investments, and it's impossible for the government to do all the work by itself," Wei said. "We are in desperate need of social powers to work on it together. The establishment of the Evergrande Football School has undoubtedly played a leading role and set an example in this regard."

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