By Li Yue and Gao Shan SAN DIEGO United
States (Xinhua) -- Warming up for
soccer practice, 15-year-old Mariposa Rodarte focused on some
jogging, swinging of the arms, twists of the hips with more than
a dozen other girls.
The girl passed the
ball to her teammates over and over again according to her
trainer’s instructions. But Rodarte hasn’t met her former coach,
Zhang Ouying, also known as Coach O by her students, at the
training ground for months.
In Rodarte’s words,
as her first coach at San Diego Soccer Club (SDSC) five years
ago, “Coach O” is always “caring,” “supportive” and
director of coaching at SDSC, received a message more than two
months ago from Zhang, who is a coach of the older girls’ team
in this club, which said, “Raffi, I do not think I am going to
be back this year. Please take care of my things.”
SDSC is a
non-profit, youth soccer organization that operates both
recreational and competitive leagues.
“The first thing for
Coach O is always the soccer team,” Ruotolo said. But coach O
has to leave her beloved field at this moment. She was diagnosed
a rare lung cancer this year.
“It was a Sunday
night, and I pushed the button to kick the GoFundMe page live,”
Ruotolo said. He created the fundraising page on behalf of Zhang
on May 2.
“World class soccer
Olympian Zhang Ouying - Coach O to thousand of San Diego
children during the past decade needs our help as she faces her
toughest opponent yet. But this time it’s off the soccer
field...Her disease is very serious, but she is determined to
fight it with the same willpower that saw her star for the
Chinese National Team in three successive Women’s World Cups -
1999, 2003, and 2007 - and in 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens
Olympics,” read the page.
“The medical bills
are mounting already and we all know that fighting this disease
can be overwhelming. Husband Edde Iott and their two children
Flynn and Elynn are bearing up well, but easing of the financial
pain will go a long way in letting them focus solely on aiding
mom in her battle,” the page added.
Ruotolo knew Zhang
for around eight years.
“She is very humble,
very professional. And she has been one of my outstanding
coaches in our club,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Zhang was the former captain of the Chinese women’s national
soccer team, playing for Chinese National Team in the 1999,
2003, and 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Also she played in the
2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.
“It is not something
that everybody can accomplish overnight,” Ruotolo said when it
comes to Zhang’s professional experience.
As one of the
largest soccer clubs in Southern California, SDSC includes 103
competitive teams and about 3,000 recreational kids.
Among the 53 soccer
coaches in this club, Zhang is the only Chinese, but language
and culture background never hampered her coaching.
Aaron Jaffe, one
coach who can speak a little Chinese, thinks soccer itself can
be served as a language for Zhang.
“There is no
language barrier for her at all,” Jaffe said. “It is no problem
for her passing her thoughts to her players.”
In the United
States, soccer is not the sport many people grow up with, but it
is becoming more and more popular among kids at a grassroots
level, especially popular among girls. After school, groups of
children play soccer on the playground every afternoon.
Besides, Zhang has
been keeping the soccer conversation among different members.
Over the past few years, she took some of her players to soccer
games in China.
In the club, there
is even a “Coach O” team that all the team players are Chinese
and were brought to by Zhang.
soccer is not only about skills. It is about attitude, too. This
could be seen from students who are sad to hear the news of
their coach’s illness.
“Coach O gave me the
confidence with the ball, and also taught me the best thing
about life is to have your friends,” Rodarte told Xinhua.
The first year
moving to SDSC, Ashley Molina, another former student of Zhang,
had experienced a terrible season.
“She knew everything
I have gone through. She was there, she was always there
motivating me,” Molina said, adding Zhang’s dedication in
coaching helped her gear up and make a difference on the team.
For many people, the
devastating news from the coach stunned them, but they are
taking actions to help her.
“It was like that
everything was suddenly frozen,” Jaffe said, recalling the
moment when he knew Zhang’s health issue.
On June 7, a
friendly soccer game was held between San Diego SeaLions, which
is one of the teams Zhang had played for, and So Cal Union.
According to Ruotolo, all the fund raised for the game was given
On the GoFundMe page
for Coach O, the fund has exceeded 150,000 dollars, raised by
more than 1,130 people.
Volumes of comments
such as “pray for Coach O,” “wish a speedy recovery” can be
found at the bottom of the page.
“Possibly it is the
toughest battle she had so far. We are here to wish nothing but
the best, and hopefully she comes out here sometime soon,”