Young Chinese footballers learn from the best in Brazil
Updated: 2014-10-03 23:49
By JI YE in Rio de Janeiro(China Daily USA)
Promising young players from the Shandong Luneng football club stand in front of the main building at the Luneng Brazil Sports Center. [Ji Ye for China Daily]
Although China did not make it to the World Cup tournament in Brazil, 33 young Chinese footballers have come here to improve their own skills and, in turn, Chinese football.
The players sent by China's Shandong Luneng football club arrived on Sept 25 in the "Kingdom of Football".
For the next three months, their home will be the Luneng Brazil Sports Center in Porto Feliz, about 100 kilometers outside of Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo.
The center, which formally opened in July, is the first overseas youth training center for Chinese footballers. It is not only for the young players of Luneng province, but also for teams from domestic and international clubs at all levels. Targeting the 14-17 age groups, the best players will be selected from the Luneng Football School to learn football techniques and participate in the Brazilian youth league.
The 160,000-square-meter school has five standard football training pitches and two futsal training pitches. It can accommodate 190 people and includes housing for players, a restaurant, gym, physical therapy room, activity room, meeting room and swimming pool.
Li Xueli, vice-president of the Luneng Football School, said the 33 players who arrived from China come from their Under 17 (U-17), U-15 and U-14 teams. The players will train and compete with local young players to learn about Brazil's unique football culture and techniques.
Brazilian youth training coaches will assess the players' overall performance. Those who pass the evaluation will return to Brazil next year; those who fail will be replaced by other selected players from the Luneng Football School.
The 33 players have had only three training sessions since arriving because most of them are still experiencing jet lag.
The players realize that this training opportunity is crucial to boosting their career development.
Liu Li from U-17 team acknowledged that the competition in Brazil is fierce.
"Back at the Luneng Football School, there are a total of 50 players in the U-17 team. But this time only 12 came to Brazil," said Liu, who used to play for China's national junior team. ``The assessment will push us to work hard."
Tao Hongliang, Liu's teammate in U-17, said that Brazil's training coaches are different from China's because they focus more on improving overall performance rather than concentrating on individual techniques.
In addition to sharpening their own skills, the young footballers and their organizers say they hope what they learn also will help them improve Chinese football.
"I think we will make a difference for Chinese football through our endeavor," said Zhao Jianfei, another player.
Despite enjoying huge popularity, football in China has been in a steady decline since losing to Japan in the final of the 2004 Asian Cup. Since then, the country has been defeated in Asian and World Cup qualifying campaigns. It sacked Spanish manager Jose Antonio Camacho last year following a humiliating 5-1 loss to Thailand.
The young players hope they will be able to turn the country's football fortunes around.
"As long as I work hard and improve myself constantly, I think I will eventually enter the top-five league in Europe some day," added Liu.
Lin Qingyang, Shandong Luneng's assistant general manager, said the team has high hopes for its developing stars.
"I think the Brazilian football league and other tournament resources will provide more opportunities for these Chinese young players, and help them grow. Our purpose is to help cultivate football players who can compete and have a place in international tournaments," he said.
"This is an exchange in sports between China and Brazil, in addition to economic and trade exchanges. As a club, we've created the platform," he added.
Almost 20 years ago, China's Jianlibao Youth Team came to Brazil to learn football. The team carried the high hopes of Chinese fans in the 1990s, and after their Brazilian experience, the team produced several national team members for China,
To be deeply rooted in the atmosphere of Brazilian football, Luneng has changed the training format. Chinese players will join the Brazilian players of the same age to train and compete together.
In accordance with Luneng's youth training strategy, it also launched the youth development program with the Brazilian club Sao Paulo.
A four-year agreement includes an exchange initiative allowing the Chinese Super League club's best youngsters to train with Sao Paulo's youth teams. Sao Paulo will in turn explore commercial opportunities in China and gain access to a new player market.
For China Daily