Pur­pose driven

Young girls in re­mote moun­tain­ous re­gion strive to re­al­ize their soc­cer dreams

Global Times US Edition - - CHINA - By Li Ruo­han

Amid huge ef­forts to pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of soc­cer in China, a group of eth­nic mi­nor­ity girls from a re­mote town­ship in South­west China’s Yun­nan Prov­ince are work­ing hard to re­al­ize their dream of be­com­ing pro­fes­sional play­ers.

Among them is Yan Lin (pseu­do­nym), a 16-year-old goal­keeper, who told the Global Times that soc­cer has vi­tal­ized her life and trans­formed her from an in­tro­vert per­son into a con­fi­dent and happy girl.

“When­ever I watch soc­cer games, I feel bound­less ex­cite­ment,” said Yan.

Yan added that she of­ten im­i­tated the tricks of pro­fes­sional play­ers she saw in com­pe­ti­tions aired on TV, though most of the time she strug­gled to learn the tricks on her own.

Yan is one of 14 girls from the soc­cer team of Yan­gli­u­jing Town­ship Mid­dle School in Yun­nan, a place close to the bor­der be­tween China and Viet­nam and fea­tur­ing karst land­scape, which makes it hard to find large enough flat land for a stan­dard soc­cer field.

Ac­cord­ing to team coach Dou Kui, the school only has a ground with weeds and stones, and the girls did not see a real soc­cer field un­til they played in their first com­pe­ti­tion.

The team’s best achieve­ment so far was win­ning a soc­cer com­pe­ti­tion held last year in the Wen­shan Zhuang and Miao Au­ton­o­mous Pre­fec­ture, which ad­min­is­ters the town­ship, af­ter beat­ing teams from all eight mid­dle schools in the pre­fec­ture. But the coach and play­ers said they are con­fi­dent of do­ing bet­ter.

De­spite the tough train­ing en­vi­ron­ment, the en­thu­si­asm and love for soc­cer is vividly dis­played on the faces of the girls, who just fin­ished a pro­gram in Bei­jing last week that in­cluded train­ing by coaches from a lead­ing Bri­tish soc­cer club.

How­ever, girls shar­ing the same level of ex­cite­ment as Lu are rare, as most of them are of­ten ex­hausted from do­ing house­hold chores such as feed­ing pigs and cows, or just hid­ing their pas­sion from their par­ents who are still not sup­port­ive of their choice.

Vol­un­teers from In­ter­na­tional Plan, the NGO that or­ga­nized the Bei­jing pro­gram, said that some par­ents in the town­ship even banned their daugh­ters from tak­ing part in the sport as they thought it might jeop­ar­dize the girls’ chances of get­ting preg­nant in the fu­ture.

De­spite the strong de­sire and love for the game, Yan also has her con­cerns, as her fam­ily is not rich and she also needs to take care of her younger brother and sis­ter, a com­mon sit­u­a­tion in the re­gion where nearly 80 per­cent of the par­ents are work­ing in cities to sup­port the fam­ily.

The school’s teach­ers told the Global Times that most of the girls are from a fam­ily with around three chil­dren, and the el­der one is ac­tu­ally tak­ing the “par­ent­ing role” in the fam­ily while the par­ents la­bor in cities.

Di­verse fea­ture

The soc­cer team is one of the sev­eral ef­forts from the lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the In­ter­na­tional Plan to help lo­cal young girls break the stereo­type of what they can do, and help them be­come more con­fi­dent.

“For eth­nic mi­nor­ity peo­ple in the re­gion, they tend to get mar­ried at a very young age, and most of the teenage girls work in fac­to­ries af­ter fin­ish­ing high schools,” said Lu De­fang, a teacher from the Yan­gli­u­jing school.

They should know there are more pos­si­bil­i­ties for their fu­ture, and their iden­tity could go be­yond just be­ing a good wife and mother, said Lu.

With the mis­sion, In­ter­na­tional Plan and lo­cal gov­ern­ment have es­tab­lished a course in 26 schools in Guang­nan county in Wen­shan since 2014, to en­cour­age lo­cal young girls to fight for di­verse ca­reers.

In the course, stu­dents are taught how to tackle the pres­sure from their peers, get pre­pared for work­ing in cities and bet­ter man­age their money.

Pres­sure from their peers, es­pe­cially those who have earned enough money to sup­port their fam­i­lies af­ter quit­ting school, also drives away some chil­dren from class, said Lu.

Chil­dren in the mid­dle school are also en­cour­aged to get in con­tact with peo­ple and learn about dif­fer­ent ca­reers.

At a work­shop in Bei­jing in midJuly, the 14 girls pic­tured their ideal ca­reers, in­clud­ing dancer, artist, soc­cer player or coach, sol­dier, white col­lar worker, ac­tor or ac­tress, nurse, lawyer, ac­coun­tant, and teacher.

The chil­dren are also learn­ing to plan pe­ri­od­i­cally for their fu­ture. “Five years later I will be study­ing in col­lege. Ten years later I will be a pro­fes­sional soc­cer player and 15 years later, I could be a coach,” read a girl’s plan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.