Need to strengthen youth soccer: Former captain
Updated: 2014-04-08 17:14
By Sun Xiaochen (chinadaily.com.cn)
FIFA Ambassador Christian Karembeu (second from left) exchanges gifts with Chinese Football Association Vice-President Lin Xiaohua (third from left) upon the golden trophy's arrival in Beijing during the Coca-Cola FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour on April 6, 2014. [Photo provided for chinadaily.com.cn]
Fan Zhiyi, a former national captain and youth soccer official, speaks to media at the launch ceremony of the Trophy Tour at the Imperial Ancestral Temple in Beijing on April 6, 2014. [Photo by Sun Xiaochen / chinadaily.com.cn]
Sponsored by Coca-Cola, the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour had its 88th stop in Beijing and will be on display to local soccer fans on Tuesday at Chaoyang Joy City, allowing the public to get close to the coveted trophy that will be presented by FIFA to the country that wins the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Chinese soccer has to work harder on its youth development and professionalization to qualify for the tournament, said Fan Zhiyi, the center back of the 2002 World Cup qualifying national squad.
"I have experienced the tournament and the excitement of being able to compete for the trophy. That kind of feeling is appealing to me and to all the soccer players in the world, I believe," Fan told China Daily at the launch of the Trophy Tour at the Imperial Ancestral Temple on Monday.
"But now we can only watch it as spectators and have nothing to do with the event, which is very sad," said Fan, who retired in 2005 and now works with the Chinese Football Association on junior development.
Due to its poor performance in the preliminaries, China missed a berth at the Brazil World Cup, which begins on June 12, and its 5-1 loss to Thailand in an international friendly in June drew nationwide criticism from notable figures, including Fan.
"They (the current national team players) lost face and it's a huge shame," Fan was quoted by Five-Star Sports as saying after that loss.
Despite high expectations from fans, Fan said Chinese soccer should set its sights lower on some practical and urgent issues and not have unrealistic dreams of making the World Cup.
"With Chinese soccer struggling in a valley now, we have to be patient and stay committed to invest more funds and resources into youth training and grassroots promotion. Only by making such efforts consistently, will the dream of getting close to the World Cup become a real quest," Fan said.
Fan's remarks were echoed by former French international midfielder and FIFA Ambassador Christian Karembeu, who also attended the ceremony on Monday.
"I think Mr Fan said very well that before hoping for big results, we need to work from the grassroots in academies to show children how to perform and practice in the right way," said Karembeu, who was part of the World Cup-winning French team in 1998.
Karembeu, who played for top European clubs including Real Madrid during his prime in the 1990s, suggested that China should introduce more expertise from the West.
"I think we need to exchange players (at the youth level), providing them infrastructure, suitable conditions and instructions to play, then you can join the elite of soccer competition."
Karembeu said exposure to the trophy helps ignite passion for the game globally.
"We are trying to inspire hopes and dreams. Behind the trophy there is a big message that we are trying to inspire people to believe in our values and share our commitment and goals. We brought this event to the world to show that sport is great inspiration and everybody has the right to dream."
This is the second time the trophy has been displayed in Beijing, following a 2006 tour, and it will also travel to Shanghai for the first time on Wednesday to be displayed at the Daning International Plaza and Wujiaochang Wanda Plaza.
Opportunities for photographs with the trophy will be available and fans can receive instant prints or retrieve digital copies at http://trophytour.fifa.com by using a FIFA photo code.
The tour will continue in Japan and the United States before ending its 221-day 150,000km journey, which covers 90 countries, in Brazil on April 21.
"Coca-Cola has once again joined hands with FIFA to bring global fans the utmost unique trophy experience. With the appearance of the authentic trophy in China, we sincerely wish a bright future for China football," said David Brooks, chairman of the Coca-Cola Greater China and Korea business unit.