Youth squad will join Ger­man league

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - XI'S VISIT - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen @chi­nadaily.com.cn

A Chi­nese un­der-20 soc­cer team is train­ing to be­come the new­est mem­ber of the fourth di­vi­sion of the Ger­man soc­cer sys­tem.

The Chi­nese Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion said a team will join the Re­gion­al­liga Sud­west, a fourth-tier league in south­west Ger­many, for the 2017-18 sea­son.

The plan is part of a fiveyear agree­ment be­tween the two coun­tries to im­prove Chi­nese soc­cer.

“To pro­vide this group of play­ers with a more com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment in or­der to im­prove, we have been talk­ing with the Ger­man side to fi­nal­ize the ar­range­ment for the U20 (team) to play in the Ger­man league,” CFA spokes- man Huang Shi­wei said last week.

The Re­gion­al­liga Sud­west, one of five re­gional leagues in the Ger­man fourth tier, has 19 clubs. The new sea­son will be from Au­gust to May.

Felix Wiede­mann, manag­ing di­rec­tor of the league, con­firmed the Chi­nese team’s in­clu­sion.

“All 19 clubs in the league have signed their ap­proval for the Chi­nese side to play,’’ Wiede­mann told Ger­man news­pa­per Bild. “I see the project as be­ing in a good po­si­tion.”

China is work­ing to de­velop its soc­cer tal­ent. Two years ago, ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties in­cluded the sport in the na­tional cur­ricu­lum for schools.

Ronny Zim­mer­man, vi­cepres­i­dent of the Ger­man Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, said Ger­man clubs are in fa­vor of the idea.

“The planned co­op­er­a­tion with China is well-known, and of course we need good con­tent for it, so we have to see if the idea is suc­cess­ful,” Zim­mer­man was quoted by Ger­man sports mag­a­zine Kicker as say­ing.

Ger­many and China signed a five-year soc­cer ex­change part­ner­ship in Novem­ber, wit­nessed by Chi­nese Vice-Premier Liu Yan­dong dur­ing her visit to Ger­many.

Since then, soc­cer de­vel­op­ment ex­changes on mul­ti­ple lev­els from youth train­ing to na­tional pro­gram de­vel­op­ment have been or­ga­nized be­tween the two coun­tries. In June, Frank­furt hosted a Chi­ne­seGer­man Foot­ball Sum­mit.

The CFA’s Huang said tech­ni­cal and lo­gis­ti­cal is­sues, such as where the Chi­nese youth team will play its “home” matches, have yet to be ad­dressed.

“We are try­ing to reach agree­ments with the Ger­mans,” she said.

It’s not the first time a soc­cer team from China will have played in Ger­many. In 2004, an un­der-18 team trav­eled to Bavaria for a twoyear train­ing pro­gram un­der Ger­man coach and former player Eck­hard Krautzun.

“This new pro­gram now is like an up­graded version ... with a more con­sis­tent frame­work to play in an es­tab­lished league,’’ said Ma Dex­ing, a com­men­ta­tor with Ti­tan Sports me­dia. “Hope­fully, the in­ten­sity of con­sis­tent com­pe­ti­tion over there will help the play­ers grow fast.”

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