Opinion / Opinion Line

Nurture sporting spirit in young soccer players

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-10-14 08:04

Nurture sporting spirit in young soccer players
Li Min / China Daily

Some under-11 soccer players in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province, were reportedly involved in a match-fixing scandal. Guangming Daily commented on Thursday:

The match-fixers in Guangzhou have cast an even deeper shadow over the men's national soccer team's latest defeat in the qualifiers for the 2018World Cup.

Most football-loving countries put a lot of effort into recruiting junior players. Iceland, home to just over 300,000 residents, made it to the Euro 2016 quarterfinals in France this summer, thanks to its successful promotion of the game among youngsters and promotion of youth football training since 2002.

As its small population and Arctic location suggest, Ice-land normally has only four months which are suitable for outdoor activities such as playing football, which explains why it had never made it to any international tournament before.

Things started to change 14 years ago when the country officially sought to make a breakthrough in football performance, by building more indoor playgrounds and training young players and coaches. As of now, it has more than 20,000 registered players, which means 1 in every 16 Icelandic citizens play the game, and there are about 179 normal football pitches and 128 small ones open to the public for free, and over 600 certified coaches-even more than Germany and Spain.

Endorsed by their country, many young Icelandic players have had the luxury of playing for leading soccer clubs in other European countries, where they could improve their performance at a faster pace and even participate in the UEFA Champions League, regarded as one of the best club tournaments in the world.

That said, the so-called Iceland Miracle in this year's European Championships was not created out of thin air. It has taken strenuous efforts to promote the game, improve relevant facilities, and recruit teenagers. China is right to emulate Iceland's success by issuing a soccer reform plan last year, which aims to encourage more youngsters to play soccer. But there are no easier alternatives, serious measures must be taken to root out the match-fixing mentality among young players.

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