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UK helps realize Xi's grassroots footballing goals

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

10-23-2015 16:19 BJT

By Colin Robinson, CNTV Commentator

For Chinese President Xi Jinping, football is an important part of China's relationship with the UK. When Xi tours Manchester City’s stadium on Friday, he will meet with representatives of the club and its main rival, Manchester United. The visit may be little more than a series of photo opportunities, but Xi cares a great deal about the "the beautiful game," and he is working with the UK to develop the sport in his country.


Ahead of his visit to the UK, Xi said that his greatest expectations for football in China are for the national team to be one of the best in the world and for the sport to "play an important role in making people stronger in body and mind."

Success for the national team remains an ambitious long term goal. But helping people to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of the sport is an aim that is much more attainable and equally important. In fact, China has been making great progress to that end.

There are extensive physical gains from playing football regularly: it helps build stamina, endurance and cardiovascular functions. And football may go some way toward tackling the nationwide "inadequate physical activity" that global health consultant Cesar Chelala cited as an important factor in China's youth obesity crisis.

Playing football also has abundant mental benefits: it improves cognitive ability; it demands discipline and perseverance. It also requires greater emphasis on teamwork, leadership and role delegation than the individual and small-sided sports—such as badminton, table tennis and basketball—that have dominated the Chinese sporting landscape. And in China, where individualism often pervades many areas of life, including sports, such values would be welcome.

While there is plenty of enthusiasm football in China, participation has lagged behind. In 2006, when FIFA's "Big Count" recorded the number of players registered at all levels in each country, China's player to population was just 0.05 percent.

But in recent years, steps have been taken to improve China's football infrastructure from the grassroots to offer children more chances to play. And the UK is helping, with its vast knowledge and experience in the sport. In 2009, Premier Skills—a football program run by the British Council and the English Premier League—began training Chinese school coaches, PE teachers and referees, providing children opportunities to play football with a greater infrastructure than any previous generation had access to.

Since Xi became president in 2013, he has resolved to further develop the sport's infrastructure and increase football's role in the lives of China’s children. Last year, officials announced football was a compulsory part of the national curriculum, and it has plans for 20,000 "football-themed" schools to be built by 2017.   

And the UK continues to play a key role in training China's coaches and teachers: Premier Skills's nationwide reach has been expanded; it now covers 12 cities and has trained more than 1,000 individuals in China, benefiting 500,000 children.

And just last month, the scheme got a boost, with UK Chancellor George Osborne pledged 3 million pounds (US$ 4.6 million) of funding to provide training for more than 5,000 new coaches.

With China and the UK's relations at high point ahead of Xi's visit to Man City's Etihad Stadium, there are many avenues for future football cooperation between China and the UK. But, for  now, the grassroots level is most important; global domination can wait.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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