Re­form a real shot in the arm for soc­cer

China Daily (Canada) - - NEWS IN REVIEW -

The Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport of China is­sued a lon­gawaited re­form plan for soc­cer, es­pe­cially the Chi­nese Football As­so­ci­a­tion, onMon­day that says the as­so­ci­a­tion will be sep­a­rated from the ad­min­is­tra­tion soon.

As an ad­min­is­tra­tive depart­ment, the CFA is af­fil­i­ated to the sport ad­min­is­tra­tion and does not func­tion as a civil or­ga­ni­za­tion, as is gen­er­ally the case around the world. The re­form is aimed at trans­form­ing the CFA from a gov­ern­ment depart­ment to a civil or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the de­vel­op­ment history of sports, there must be a clear bor­der be­tween so­ci­ety and the gov­ern­ment when it comes to the ad­min­is­tra­tion and op­er­a­tion of sports. My re­cent in­ter­ac­tions with two Aus­tralian youth soc­cer teams that were in Bei­jing to at­tend an in­vi­ta­tional tour­na­ment have leftme more con­vinced of the sig­nif­i­cance and ne­ces­sity of the on­go­ing soc­cer re­form in China, a coun­try with the largest num­ber of soc­cer fans in the world.

A core spirit of the re­form is that the gov­ern­ment should re­spect the laws of sports and the mar­ket, and re­lax its tight grip on the ad­min­is­tra­tion of sports.

China fo­cuses on good coaches, tal­ented play­ers and big gov­ern­ment in­puts in soc­cer pro­grams. Yet the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment has adopted a more in­clu­sive plan to pro­mote all kinds of sports from the school level. Youths can choose the sports they like most, and their in­ter­est is con­sid­ered their best men­tor. As such, chil­dren who choose to play soc­cer are the most com­mit­ted to soc­cer. In con­trast, all stu­dents in some Chi­nese schools are forced to play soc­cer just be­cause of a gov­ern­ment pol­icy aimed at pro­mot­ing the game.

Un­like their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts, Aus­tralian chil­dren who love play­ing soc­cer sel­dom re­ceive col­lec­tive train­ing in schools or at­tend spe­cial soc­cer camps un­der the aegis of the gov­ern­ment. In­stead, am­a­teur com­mu­nity soc­cer clubs in Aus­tralia play an im­por­tant role in or­ga­niz­ing chil­dren’s train­ing and tour­na­ments. The fund­ing comes from soc­cer-lov­ing chil­dren’s fam­i­lies, am­a­teur (and other) clubs and the gov­ern­ment, not the schools be­cause that would be un­fair to stu­dents not play­ing soc­cer.

This is not to say that Aus­tralian schools don’t care about sports. Ac­tu­ally, the level of and fa­cil­i­ties for sports are im­por­tant cri­te­ria to judge a school’s qual­ity in Aus­tralia, and col­lege stu­dents ma­jor­ing in sports have many ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties. On the other hand, ma­jor­ing in sports in China is mostly a makeshift choice for stu­dents who are not good in aca­demics.

The young Aus­tralian soc­cer play­ers vis­it­ing Bei­jing seemed con­fused when I asked them whether play­ing soc­cer has had an im­pact on their stud­ies, for they be­lieve play­ing sports is as im­por­tant as spend­ing time on books.

Col­leges in many univer­si­ties have quo­tas for sports tal­ents. But in China, the pro­vi­sion of en­rolling stu­dents good at sports in col­leges even if they don’t have the qual­i­fy­ing scores has been mis­used by

some cor­rupt ed­u­ca­tion and sports of­fi­cials.

The mush­room­ing of pro­fes­sional soc­cer clubs in China since 1994, when the three-level Chi­nese soc­cer league started, can be at­trib­uted to the so­cial ap­peal and mar­ket de­mand for soc­cer. In this sense, the CFA should act as a watchdog rather than an almighty power con­trol­ling ev­ery as­pect of soc­cer.

Hun­dreds of mil­lions Chi­nese soc­cer fans dream of see­ing their coun­try’s soc­cer team and play­ers play at the global level, in­stead of strug­gling even at the re­gional level. The re­form, if well im­ple­mented, will be an im­por­tant step to­ward mak­ing this dream come true.

China’s soc­cer re­form de­mands the joint ef­forts of dif­fer­ent par­ties, es­pe­cially the mar­ket and so­ci­ety, which should take the onus of pro­vid­ing qual­ity train­ing to and cul­ti­vat­ing young tal­ents, for ex­am­ple, through a multi-tier but healthy and pro­fes­sional soc­cer league. In this re­gard, the gov­ern­ment has to in­tro­duce more pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ex­per­tise in plan­ning, pol­i­cy­mak­ing and fi­nanc­ing. And schools and par­ents must try to in­still the love for sports among chil­dren and thus al­low them to en­joy play­ing sports.

The au­thor is an of­fi­cial of Chi­nese Stu­dent Sports Fed­er­a­tion.

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

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