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Foreign coaches fuel Chinese children’s World Cup dreams

By Xinhua writers Huang Yongxian, Luo Yu and Zhang Yiyi GUIYANG China (Xinhua) -- As the World Cup fever grips fans from all around the globe, a group of Chinese teenagers and two foreign football coaches gather for the third time for intensive training in the mountains of China’s Guizhou Province.

“Run!” “Pass it!” “Shoot!” “Bravo!” ... As the small soccer players run and play with joy and dedication, the coaches cheer them on from the sidelines of the Zhenhua National Middle School football field in Kaili City of Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture.

The coaches are Jose Hernandez Suarez from Spain and his Chilean assistant Mauricio Javier Martinez Neira.

Forty-eight-year-old Hernandez told Xinhua that it was the third time for him and Martinez to offer free instruction and training for the students.

“We organize teaching programs based on the boys’ ages,” explained Hernandez, “Our teaching methods were inspired by a system of football training in Spain, which offers quality and maturity.”

According to Hernandez, the training includes interesting warm-up games, reasonable and scientific physical training, basic and practical skills, flexible and variable techniques and tactics, as well as matches between different teams.

For Hernandez, there is no big difference between teenagers in China and those in Europe. Although the average height of the Chinese students might be shorter, their passion to learn and strong will to win are as strong as other players in the world, Hernandez said.

“The other difference is that in China, we have government support for youth soccer players, which is rarely seen in Europe,” the veteran coach said.

Hernandez also admitted that “grassroots” football in China still has a lot of room to develop. According to him, there are local leagues in many European cities, even among schools, where children can practice and compete to continually improve.

“Unlike Europe, this happens only once every two or three months in Kaili,” he said. The former professional football player later became a football coach, and has spent over 20 years training children in Spanish clubs.

Before coming to Kaili, Hernandez spent two years as a football coach in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, but he moved to Kaili because he was touched by the local football atmosphere. Upon his arrival, he signed a two-year contract with Guizhou Fengyun, a football club dedicated to training young talents.

“Our philosophy coincides—by focusing more on the training of youths can we win the future,” he said, addressing the fact that the process might be long, requiring 10 to 20 years of work.

Martinez, the 24-year-old assistant and friend of Hernandez, used to play in the Chilean Second Division. In 2014, he went to Chengdu to work as a trainer for a local team. This year, he followed Hernandez’s advice and returned to China, to help him train the young talents in Kaili.

The young man stressed that for him it was “a beautiful opportunity” to be able to teach everything he knows about football to Chinese children.

Martinez is excited to see that children in Kaili have a passion and desire to compete, “What they need is to persist in working on their techniques,” he said.

The young man showed great confidence in the sport in China. “China has great potential in football, you just have to develop it, and in a few years the country will be able to become a global football power,” he said.

However, life in Kaili is not easy for the teachers. For example, apart from Martinez and a club translator, Hernandez has no one to talk to in his native language.

For Martinez, the Chilean former player, a major problem is that he is not yet used to spicy food, one of the favorites of local people. In addition, he misses his two-year-old daughter, who lives in Chile.

One shared hope for the coaches is to bring their families to live with them, and to witness and participate in the development of the sport in China.

Their dream is becoming a reality, as free football training courses are now offered in many primary and secondary schools in Kaili City, thanks to Fengyun’s football promotion program in cooperation with local government.

“We are planning to bring two more foreign coaches here to expand our coaching team and offer regular training to more school children,” said Yao Yu, the club’s executive president.

The young entrepreneur is confident that if this method of training is preserved, one day the Chinese team could return to the World Cup. If this happens, his dream is that there will be players in the field that Hernandez and Martinez are training today.



New Hebei boss Coleman “excited” about working in China

By Sportswriter Michael Butterworth BEIJING China (Xinhua) -- Former Wales football manager Chris Coleman says he is excited about working in China, and that the country’s target of winning the FIFA World Cup by 2050 is achievable.

The Welshman was appointed manager of Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune last month, and in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, explained why he had decided to move to China.

“British coaches generally don’t travel. I don’t know why. I’ve worked in Spain and Greece, and I really enjoyed my experience of working abroad. The Chinese Super League is going from strength to strength, and it’s a much talked about league back home.”

The Swansea native added, “There was talk of me coming here in 2016, so it’s been in the background for a few years, and then the opportunity came and I was very excited and wanted to do it.”

Coleman takes over from Manuel Pellegrini, under whose stewardship Hebei missed out on qualification for the Asian Champions League by just two points in 2017. The former Fulham and Sunderland boss is keen for his new charges to go one better.

“The first goal is for us to finish in a Champions League spot. We’re six or seven points behind at the moment, but that’s not to say we can’t do it. We’ll try our best to make up the ground now, but within the next 18 months we have to be looking at the top three. Hebei have never finished in one of those spots, so that’s got to be the aim.”

Having previously been an international manager, Coleman is taking a keen interest in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and reserved praise for England manager Gareth Southgate, whom the Welshman played alongside at Premier League outfit Crystal Palace in the 1990s.

“Gareth is a very good manager. He’s been very brave, he’s changed everything. He’s changed formation and personnel, he’s doing it exactly how he wants to do it, and you have to give respect to him for doing that. When we were teammates, Gareth was a deep thinker, very intelligent, and a fantastic captain. I thought then he would go on and become a manager.”

The new Hebei boss also offered his thoughts on the current state of Chinese football, with the country having stated its aim to qualify for, host, and win the World Cup by 2050. Drawing on his own experience as manager of Wales, Coleman was at pains to point out that anything is possible when a team has a strong sense of self-belief.

“First, they need to qualify, and have that taste of success to give them a bit of confidence and belief that things are possible. When I was manager of Wales, we failed so many times, but we stuck at it and then we had great success. Nobody thought Greece could win the European Championships in 2004, so it can be done.”

The Welshman added that loftier goals could be achieved with the correct preparation. “For China to win the World Cup, it’ll be very difficult, but 2050 is a long way away. That’s a lot of years, a lot of preparation, and they certainly take their football very seriously here. I’m quite sure football in China will improve in the next five to 10 years, so in the next 20 to 30 years, who knows?”


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