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Young stars begin to emerge from China's football schools

Reporter: Xu Geng 丨 CCTV.com

07-05-2014 20:36 BJT

One of the first places in China to attempt to grow the game of football at the grassroots level was a small county in northwest China’s Shaanxi province. The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago and the results are starting to show.

Football is not just a game, it’s part of the daily life for students in Zhidan.

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago.

Zhidan Youth Football Team has been training student-athletes for more than 10 years. And in March, it sent a group of its most talented players to Berlin, where they got a chance to hit the pitch with other German junior players and professional coaches, and even got a special visit from President Xi Jinping, who was touring Europe at the time. It marked another step on their way to building up China’s football foundation.

"Football is beyond borders. Barcelona has Messi, while Zhidan has these kids who could become stars in the future. We want to build our own Real Madrid no matter how long it takes," said Ding Changbao, president of Zhidan Football Association.

In 2010, Zhidan became the first county in China to offer school football programs. It has since grown to include 24 football schools and more than 5-thousand students receiving regular football training.

But like all sports, it comes with both pleasure and pain.

Especially for children in the county’s poorer areas, where for years they had nowhere to practice except concrete pitches.

"Only 4 schools have standard football fields. And there are only 5 certified coaches, the rest are volunteers," Ding Changbao said.

To provide better conditions for the young players, the local government built more football fields and hired qualified coaches.

"It’s a fact that Chinese football is in its low ebb, but this is the time it needs more people’s understanding. We believe what we do now could help the rise of Chinese football," Coach Xi Hailong said.

Of course not all of Zhidan’s young players will reach the professional leagues. But these schools have shown them how to still enjoy the game, work hard and dream big.

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago.

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago.

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago

The Zhidan Youth Football Team began integrating football training into school curriculums over ten years ago.




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