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Yao urges return to playing sports for joy

2013-08-14 21:20

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Yao urges return to playing sports for joy
Retired Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming said he hopes that playing sports will be simply for fun someday. "Sports now means too much beyond itself. What we badly need is participation from grassroots sports-lovers", said the 33-year-old charity ambassador and businessman on Wednesday during an exclusive interview with China Daily on the sidelines of a charity tour in Anhui province. 

Former NBA star Yao Ming is urging society to let sport return to its original function of bringing joy to children, as the country debates the recent failure of the Chinese basketball team in the FIBA Asia Championship.

China's hoops icon Yao remained silent about the team's performance, but he stressed that more attention should be paid to the game's fundamentals.

What they say about the bad performance of the national men's basketball team recently

Yao urges return to playing sports for joy Wang Zhizhi, 36-year-old forward and China's first NBA player, who was with the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat

On the allegation that Hu Jiashi encouraged players to disobey coach Giannakis' orders

"After the two defeats at the group stage, the whole team felt a lot of pressure, and some young players were too nervous to play. Team leaders (including Hu) summoned some veterans to a meeting and encouraged us to take more shots without hesitation. That's it."

Yao urges return to playing sports for joy Yi Jianlian, Team China's current backbone, who returned to the CBA from the NBA last year.

On China's current level in Asia

"We have to clearly realize the fact that Chinese basketball's pace of improvement has been slower than our opponents. We are no longer the dominating force in Asia, and we have to make a greater effort to regain the top position. Chinese basketball is struggling, but I remain confident about the future."

Yao urges return to playing sports for joy Li Jinsheng, vice-president of the CBA.

On the CBA's responsibility for the defeat

"Leaders of the basketball association all felt so sad and regretful about the result this time. The lesson we learned is profound, and the CBA should take the major responsibility for the loss. We can't blame the foreign coach for everything."

Yao urges return to playing sports for joy Carl Men Ky Ching, former FIBA president (2002-06)

On problems of Team China

"The shortage of reserve talent is a big concern. There are few key players in their prime on the team as the veterans have entered the twilight of their careers. Yi Jianlian is a good player but not a legitimate leader. I will try to help China apply for a wild card to play in next year's World Cup."

"Any sports competition originated from a kind of game, and games bring people happiness. That's the simple but profound function of sport — a simple thing that people tend to neglect," Yao told China Daily during the Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season in Lu'an, Anhui province, last week.

"On a higher level, the function will extend to more meanings like showing a country's prowess, which is widely promoted now. But I think what we lack is just the small joy at the foundation."

The Hope Primary School Basketball Season, a charitable program, carries the star's commitment to benefit students in underprivileged areas through their participation in basketball, which can teach children the virtues of teamwork, leadership and socializing.

Jointly initiated by the Yao Foundation and the China Youth Development Foundation last year, the event reached 79 hope schools (37 more than last year) over a two-month stretch, during which college volunteers instructed children in basketball skills and sports facilities were donated.

As the finale of the season's eastern conference, a six-day training camp and exhibition game were held at West Anhui University in Lu'an, with 370 students from 19 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions joining to share experiences.

Yao didn't play the game. He served as the coach of one of the teams, the Happiness Union.

"Sports is a means for all-around education, and it helps build children's inner strength as well as their fitness," said Yao, who has shifted his focus to boosting sports' role in China's exam-oriented education since retiring from the game in 2010.

The western finale, which was supposed to held in Mianyang, Sichuan province, last month, was postponed due to rainstorms and flooding.

Gong Fei, a fifth-grader from Loufan county, Shanxi province, said the event helped him realize his dream.

"I am so excited that I saw Yao standing in front of me and he talked with me. My dream has come true.

"We didn't have basketball at school before the event and now we play four times a week. It really brought us a lot of fun and taught us to face adversities bravely."

Yao also brought his own daughter Yao Qinlei to a clinic held at Beijing's Huilei School last month, hoping the exposure would positively influence the 3-year-old Amy (his daughter's English name).

"I just want to let her know how lucky she is (compared with children living in rural regions) and that every gain in life needs to be earned."

Although Yao conceded that his personal impact is fading after leaving the court, his responsible public image still attracts support from sponsors and other charity programs.

This year's basketball season attracted 19 donors from world-famous enterprises, disproving claims Yao's appeal to sponsors has sharply declined.

"Yao's impact as a charity enthusiast will always be there and we expect to deliver our shared value that lets children play more with the cooperation with Yao," said Federico Pricolo, brand director of renowned laundry brand OMO.

NBA Cares, the league's social responsibility program, continued to provide help this year after sending the Los Angeles Clippers' Caron Butler to coach at last year's finale.

"The players coming to the charity event are delighted to come," said NBA China CEO David Shoemaker, who officially started the exhibition game as a guest in Lu'an. "NBA legends fade away a bit when they retire. I think Yao's star power is as bright as ever, given all the things he has committed to doing off the court."

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