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China Daily Website

Chinese soccer not mentally good

Updated: 2012-02-27 15:35
( chinadaily.com.cn/Xinhua)

THE HAGUE - "Chinese soccer players are technically good, but not mentally," said some Dutch coaches working in China, before the new season of the Chinese Football Super League starts.

Big foreign names are starting to find their ways to Chinese soccer, such as Nicolas Anelka and Jean Tigana at Shanghai Shenhua. In the meantime the influx of Dutch coaches is continuing as Henk Ten Cate signed at Shandong Luneng, following the steps of Jan Olde Riekerink, Jan Versleijen, Jo Bonfrere, Arie Schans and Theo de Jong.

Of the Dutch coaches, 48-year-old Jan Olde Riekerink is most directly involved in the development and rejuvenation of Chinese soccer.

In August 2011 the former head of the youth academy of Ajax was appointed head of youth education at the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and coach of the Olympic team, now Under 19, which is eventually aiming to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.

The first test of the team of Olde Riekerink was the qualifying tournament for the 2012 AFC Under-19 Championship in November last year. China drew with Indonesia (0-0), beat Singapore (11-0) and Macao (5-0) and lost to Australia (3-0). They finished second in the group to qualify for the finals with group winners Australia.

"It went well until the last game," the Dutch coach said. "Then I could see the weaknesses exposed in terms of physical ability, maturity, playing at a high level and cleverness. First, we need to encourage their physical development. I do not mean that they should be bodybuilders, but more power is needed. Look at small players like Xavi, Iniesta or Sneijder, who are resilient in the field. In addition, they have to play many games at a high level against good teams."

Olde Riekerink was satisfied with his team. "Individually they are very good, technically they are very good, even better than young players in the Netherlands, even at Ajax. They have to learn to play better tactically, but I am impressed by their individual qualities and their ability to learn. They want to improve."

At the AFC U-19 qualifying tournament Olde Riekerink met his compatriot 56-year-old Jan Versleijen, who is coach of the Australian team after working for years in the Netherlands, Japan and the Middle East.

He shared the same opinion with Olde Riekerink about the Chinese players. "Technically they are all good," he said. "But when we talk about team build-up and tactics in the matches, they still leave a lot to be desired. The intensity and pace during training and matches should be raised, with and without the ball."

Versleijens predecessor Jo Bonfrere is less convinced by what he experienced in China.

The 65-year-old Dutchman led Nigeria to Olympic gold in 1996 and was also coach of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. In 2007 he was in charge of Dalian Shide in China, finishing fifth in the Super League.

Last year he took over at Henan halfway the season from South Korean coach Kim Hak-Beom and secured the club's place in the top flight.

"The level of China's soccer is not comparable to Western Europe," Bonfrere said. "Tactically, it is even worse. All the teams play the same way, do the same things. They train hard, but under Chinese coaches they are jogging, running and running, totally different from the Wester European approach. Clubs must appoint good trainers, something must be done about the training of coaches. They should not only teach the discipline of jogging, but also of tactics."

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