Cir­cling for soc­cer

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By SUN XIAOCHEN in Or­dos, In­ner Mon­go­lia sunx­i­aochen@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

In 2002, the Chi­nese na­tional soc­cer team was in­spired to reach its first — and so far only — FIFA World Cup in Ja­pan and South Korea by head coach Bora Mi­luti­novic’s “happy soc­cer” phi­los­o­phy.

Fif­teen years on, the coun­try plans to fur­ther in­still the con­cept by in­tro­duc­ing a tailor-made preschool soc­cer pro­gram at 27,000 kinder­gartens by 2020.

A smart teach­ing sys­tem, part of the China Eyas Pro­gram, was launched on Satur­day at the Na­tional Chil­dren’s .Foot­ball Expo in Or­dos, In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion, the first provin­cial­level soc­cer re­form pilot area.

An ex­pert panel ap­pointed by the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee for Young Chil­dren’s Sports has cus­tomized the cur­ricu­lum to suit the men­tal and phys­i­cal con­di­tion of chil­dren age 3 to 6, with the stress on fun rather than tech­ni­cal as­pects of the game.

The China Eyas Pro­gram, which was launched by the China Soong Ching Ling Foun­da­tion and the China Sports Foun­da­tion in May last year, will bring the teach­ing sys­tem to 3,000 preschools na­tion­wide on a trial ba­sis by the end of this year.

“Early years ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions are op­er­at­ing ev­ery­where, but there hasn’t been a na­tional plat­form to of­fer stan­dard and tai­lor­made soc­cer train­ing for such young chil­dren be­fore,” said Hu Jian­guo, di­rec­tor of the com­mit­tee. “We ex­pect the pro­gram to make a difference.”

The smart teach­ing sys­tem is based on cloud data stor­age and con­sists of mon­i­tors, track­ing cam­eras and wear­able de­vices. Teach­ers na­tion­wide can study the cur­ricu­lum on­line, or­ga­nize classes with video guid­ance, and im­pro­vise based on the col­lected data.

Par­ents can also track a child’s real-time par­tic­i­pa­tion in train­ing and re­ceive feed­back from teach­ers via a mo­bile app.

“You will never have enough train­ers to ex­pand soc­cer ed­u­ca­tion across the coun­try, so this sys­tem ad­dresses the is­sue with a high-tech and ef­fi­cient so­lu­tion,” said Liu Hong, ex­ec­u­tive part­ner of Bei­jing Yin­glets Sports, which op­er­ates the sys­tem.

Dur­ing the Or­dos expo, which ends on Tues­day, chil­dren from more than 30 kinder­gartens have been com­pet­ing in a five-a-side tour­na­ment, while 120 teach­ers have re­ceived the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal train­ing.

China has an am­bi­tious soc­cer de­vel­op­ment plan, but the ed­u­ca­tion of preschool chil­dren is of­ten over­looked and needs more at­ten­tion, ac­cord­ing to Wu Gang, vi­cepres­i­dent of the In­ner Mon­go­lia Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

“To de­velop soc­cer, we re­ally need to start with chil­dren at a very young age,” he said. “If you look at Euro­pean coun­tries, kids be­gin sign­ing up with clubs to re­ceive train­ing when they are lit­tle more than tod­dlers.”

How­ever, ex­perts also warn against push­ing kin­der­garten chil­dren too hard.

“Younger kids un­der­stand things dif­fer­ently. … The in­for­ma­tion needs to go in a lit­tle bit eas­ier and at a slower pace,” said Aaron Reynolds, founder of the Bei­jing Aaron Foot­ball Academy, which has about 500 stu­dents.

“It’s a golden age for kids to move into foot­ball be­tween 3 and 6, but they need to learn more psy­cho­log­i­cally as op­posed to phys­i­cally dur­ing this phase. Just give them a ball, teach them to be con­fi­dent and have fun.”

XU YU / XIN­HUA

Kin­der­gart­ners gather dur­ing a soc­cer fes­ti­val in Changx­ing county, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

PHOTO PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Two kin­der­garten teams from Zhuhai, Guang­dong prov­ince, com­pete in a five-a-side match on Satur­day dur­ing the 2017 Na­tional Chil­dren’s Foot­ball Expo in Or­dos, In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

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