China can be soccer super power in 10 years

By Wang Mingjie in Manchester | | Updated: 2017-09-06 00:41

China will be a world soccer super power in ten years if it keeps it's vision and investment momentum in soccer development, according to the CEO of Manchester City Football Club.

Speaking ahead of a visit to the city by representatives of ten Chinese companies eying sports development opportunities in China, Ferran Soriano said: "We have a lot of interest in China and we also have a lot people and resources in helping China developing its football. We see China as a land of opportunity for global football."

But he urged China to be patient in developing its soccer culture. "You cannot do this in two years. You need probably a decade. If we start coaching a Chinese player today, with appropriate coaching, we have to start at the age of six or seven."

It is important to invest in the right thing - education and coaching, said Soriano, adding that "There is no doubt that if China invests the right thing with the right patience, in 10 years, you will be one of the biggest football countries in the world."

The tour of the Manchester City was a part of week-long visit by the Chinese sports mission to UK.

"I am particularly interested in the new technology and creative ideas in the English football," said Hao Qing, chief executive of Shanghai Kehua Football Training and Development Co. He said he came onto this visit with questions so that he could truly benefit from it.

"Football in the UK is not about scores and grades - it’s a whole systematic structure," Hao said, conceding that there is not yet enough high-quality coaches in China to train and motivate young players.

He said he believes that the fundamental difference between Chinese and English soccer lies at the youth level training. He noted that many local communities in the UK have youth soccer clubs which help create a sustainable flow of talent.

Following China's President Xi Jinping's state visit to the UK in 2015, Manchester City has become one of the most popular English Premier League clubs in China.

Later that year, China Media Capital bought 13 percent of the club’s parent company City Football Group for $400 million, forging a close relationship between China and the club.

Chinese soccer needs to make a cultural transition whereby a grassroots soccer culture is created that enables young players to engage with the game, said Simon Chadwick, a professor of sport business strategy at Salford University.

"This must combine playing the game and developing an appropriate skill-set while enabling youngsters to continue the academic and intellectual development," he said. "This is a big task - although with careful planning, leadership and management, it can be achieved."

Zhang Yangfei contributed to this story

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