Sports / Soccer

Grassroots soccer gets a big push

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-17 07:49

Chinese Football Association conference sets expansion of talent pool as key agenda for 2016

Grassroots soccer gets a big push

A group of children pose for the camera during a training session organized by Sport8 in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Under hefty expectations for better soccer development, the Chinese Football Association pledged at its national congress on Wednesday to build a solid grassroots foundation by expanding school systems and optimizing youth training programs.

CFA officials disclosed at the congress that the association will continue working with the Ministry of Education to provide competition organizing expertise and technical training for physical education teachers and referees, and it will help build more facilities to develop China's fledgling school soccer system as its key agenda in 2016, to expand the talent pool for the higher echelons of the sport.

"The low competitive level of the high-profile sport doesn't match China's status as an emerging world power nor other social and economic achievements. The weak mass participation foundation is one of the key reasons for that, and it should be strengthened by encouraging youth participation by all means," said CFA President Cai Zhenhua.

The congress, attended by representatives from 47 local associations and clubs, followed the men's national team's disappointing performance in the 2018 World Cup Asian qualification.

After tying Hong Kong China in a scoreless qualifying match last month, the Chinese squad has almost missed out on a berth for the 2018 World Cup, maintaining only a theoretical possibility to qualify depending on other teams' results in the pool stage.

That would be China's fourth failed World Cup qualifying campaign, a disappointment in light of President Xi Jinping's fervent wish to see China join world powers in the sport.

Building a sound youth cultivating system - which connects the school leagues, youth programs of local sports bureaus and pro clubs' reserve teams training - should be prioritized as a key to revitalizing the sport, congress attendees agreed.

Wei Shubo, secretary-general of the Shandong provincial soccer association, said regional governing bodies should adopt more open policies to introduce foreign expertise and know-how from nongovernmental entities in youth cultivation.

The province's Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng has built a youth training base in Brazil, bringing Chinese talent to advanced training in the South American soccer kingdom.

Wang Dengfeng, director of the Education Ministry's Physical Education, Health and Art Department, said the school league system needs more guidance from the CFA and its affiliated training facilities to train more qualified PE teachers and technical staff. The ministry has selected 8,627 primary and secondary schools across the country to teach mandatory soccer courses en route to developing 50,000 such soccer-specialty schools by 2025.


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