Ger­mans kick in with ex­per­tise

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By CHEN XIANGFENG in Weinan, Shaanxi province chenx­i­angfeng@chi­nadaily.com.cn

While Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel have drawn a blue­print for top-level soc­cer co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries, grass­roots ex­changes among clubs, or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies are flour­ish­ing.

Bun­desliga teams like Bay­ern Mu­nich, Schalke and Bayer Lev­erkusen are fron­trun­ners in help­ing de­velop the Chi­nese game through friendly matches, soc­cer acad­e­mies and train­ing camps.

This month, Lev­erkusen and Han­sum Sports opened train­ing camps in three cities — Dun­huang, Gansu province, Weinan, Shaanxi province and Taizhou, Jiangsu province — hop­ing the ad­vanced Ger­man youth train­ing sys­tem will ben­e­fit young play­ers and coaches in China’s el­e­men­tary and high-school pro­grams.

“A lot of Chi­nese coaches teach young play­ers the wrong ideas about soc­cer, which makes it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for them to change their habits when turning pro­fes­sional,” said Jia Xi­uquan, for­mer head coach of China’s youth team.

“At the grass­roots level, it’s very im­por­tant that coaches from soc­cer pow­ers like Ger­many, Eng­land and Spain are in­vited to China to in­tro­duce the best train­ing sys­tems to our play­ers and coaches.”

Jia is one of the ex­perts tak­ing part in a train­ing camp ex­change in Weinan, where two of Lev­erkusen’s re­serveteam coaches were in­vited by Han­sum Sports and opened camps for hun­dreds of kids from el­e­men­tary schools.

“Chi­nese coaches like to pick play­ers who are strong, tall and fast. But when we look at the young play­ers in Ger­many, Brazil and even Ja­pan, they have dif­fer­ent physiques but their sense of soc­cer and team­work is the same,” said Jia.

“I hope more coaches from Ger­many and other coun­tries can come to China to tell our coaches that soc­cer play­ers need not be just strong and fast. The most im­por­tant thing is to find and de­velop those who have the best sense for the sport.”

Ger­many’s Un­der-21 team won the Eu­ro­pean cham­pi­onship ear­lier this month and its se­nior squad won the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup with an ex­per­i­men­tal lineup.

“The key be­hind Ger­man soc­cer’s suc­cess is youth train­ing,” said Niko­lay Iliev, Lev­erkusen’s youth-team coach who is in­volved in the Chi­nese train­ing camp.

“It’s an honor for us to be part of the ex­change be­tween the two coun­tries, and we hope a long-term co­op­er­a­tion can be set up.”

Last Novem­ber, China and Ger­many signed a five-year agree­ment to boost soc­cer, wit­nessed by Vice-Premier Liu Yan­dong dur­ing her visit to Ger­many.

Soc­cer ex­changes have been boom­ing since a 2014 meet­ing be­tween Xi and Merkel — both of whom are avid fans of the game. The lead­ers met again this month when Xi vis­ited Ger­many and watched a youth match be­tween the coun­tries.

“The aim of the agree­ment is to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese foot­ball through sev­eral ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing the train­ing of play­ers, coaches and ref­er­ees, as well as through an ex­change of ex­per­tise in the or­ga­ni­za­tion of leagues,” the Ger­man Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion said in a state­ment.

Volker Heun, founder and CEO of In­vest in Foot­ball GmbH in Dus­sel­dorf, said the part­ner­ship shows the close­ness of the re­la­tion­ship, which has paved the way for Ger­many to help China be­come a soc­cer power.

“Un­der the frame­work of this co­op­er­a­tion, I be­lieve many new op­por­tu­ni­ties will oc­cur,” said Heun.

“We must try to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties by train­ing boys at age 7 or 8.”

The Chi­nese Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion re­cently an­nounced an un­der-20 team from China will com­pete in Ger­many’s fourthtier Re­gion­al­liga Sud­west in the 2017-18 sea­son.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Young­sters from el­e­men­tary schools in Weinan, Shaanxi province, take part in a soc­cer train­ing camp on Tues­day. Or­ga­nized by Han­sum Sports, the pro­gram en­lists coaches from Bun­desliga club Bayer Lev­erkusen to teach kids and coaches at the grass­roots level.

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