Beijing, March 3 (Reporter Bian Liqun) "The root cause of China's backwardness in football lies in the imperfect youth training system, and the construction of key cities for football development is mainly to solve the problems of imperfect construction of the existing youth training system, unsmooth talent training and transportation channels, and insufficient integration of youth sports and education." ”

At the 23 National Football Development Key Cities Annual Work Conference held on the 2023rd, Du Zhaocai, deputy director of the State General Administration of Sports and secretary of the Party Committee of the Chinese Football Association, said.

How can football be revitalized? How to solve the outstanding difficulties faced in football reform? How to deepen the integration of sports and education and smooth the channels for talents to further their studies? This is a topic of concern for the public at present, and it is also the focus of this football work conference.

Du Zhaocai, deputy director of the State General Administration of Sports and secretary of the Party Committee of the Chinese Football Association, spoke at the meeting. Image source: Chinese Football Association

Build a key city for football development

For Chinese football, "key city for football development" is not a strange word. Since 1964, the State General Administration of Sports has carried out four selection activities for key cities in football.

On May 2021, 5, the General Administration of Sports of the People's Republic of China issued the Guiding Opinions of the General Administration of Sports on Carrying out the Construction of Key Football Development Cities in China, further promoting the implementation of Article 19 of the Overall Plan for the Reform and Development of Chinese Football, selecting a group of cities with good football foundation, good development conditions and high work enthusiasm to strengthen support and guidance, and summarize and promote typical experiences in football reform and development in a point-by-point manner.

As of March 2022, 3 cities have confirmed their declarations, of which 44 cities stand out: Shanghai, Chengdu, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Changchun, Chongqing, Dalian, Qingdao, Beijing, Yanbian, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Meizhou, Xiao'an and Nanjing.

Among them, there are old key football cities, and there is no lack of rising stars, which play a pivotal role in domestic professional football, youth football, venue facilities, and football talent training.

The site of the 2023 National Football Development Key City Annual Work Conference. Image source: Chinese Football Association

Youth football is the center of gravity

There is no doubt that Chinese football is currently at a low ebb. During the meeting on the 23rd, the Chinese Asian Games team lost 0:2 to New Zealand in the warm-up match. Whether it is the result or the process of the competition, it is difficult not to cause concern from the outside world, which has also become one of the topics of discussion after the meeting of the participants.

For Chinese football, which is not connected, the decline on the international scene has become a norm. As Du Zhaocai said, the root of all this still lies in the imperfection of the youth training system.

Du Zhaocai said at the meeting: "Youth football is the cornerstone of China's football development and revitalization, and it is also a basic and strategic project to build a strong sports country. It is necessary to really shift the focus of football to youth football. ”

The site of the 2023 National Football Development Key City Annual Work Conference. Image source: Chinese Football Association

This statement with signatory significance is also a major consensus among key cities in football development.

For example, Che Jinghua, secretary of the party group and director of Qingdao Sports Bureau, said that Qingdao will smooth the football talent training mechanism, establish a national women's football youth training center, improve the construction of men's football youth training sub-centers, and realize the layout of the city's football youth training center and the direct policy of further education "one map" and full coverage.

Shanghai, which also has a deep football heritage, has continuously improved the football talent training system in recent years.

Xu Bin, director of the Shanghai Municipal Sports Bureau, said: "In the process of promoting the reform of sports schools, the Municipal Sports Bureau has clearly proposed to vigorously carry out the layout of football projects and guide more district-level sports schools to resume football projects. ”

"The Shanghai Municipal Party Committee and the Shanghai Municipal Government attach great importance to the integration of sports and education, and have successively issued three rounds of documents to strengthen the integration of sports and education, all of which propose to strengthen the construction of football reserve talent teams and improve the guarantee system for elite players to further their education under the guidance of football reform."

Kids kicking soccer. Photo courtesy of Jiaojiang District Education Bureau, Taizhou City

Talent promotion channels are the key

In recent years, the reporter felt that coaches, players, school football experts and students' parents have expressed concerns about the rising channel of youth football. In layman's terms, it is afraid to let children devote themselves to professional football, for fear that they will not go to school in the future.

During this year's National Two Sessions, Chinese women's football coach Shui Qingxia also said in an exclusive interview with "I found that many primary schools do better in school football, but after junior high school, fewer children play football, and even fewer in high school." ”

For the development of youth football in China, this is indeed a major difficulty.

To this end, Du Zhaocai clearly proposed at this meeting: "It is necessary to study and formulate policies such as evaluation and further education guarantee for students with football talents, introduce flexible student status and other systems, smooth the mechanism for training and further education of football talents, and improve the recruitment and training system for high-level sports teams and professional football players in colleges and universities." ”

Girls on the green field. Photo by Yang Yanmin

The reporter noted that in the selection of key cities for football development in the country, the establishment of a local elite direct access guarantee system is a necessary condition, summarized as the "631" system - that is, in the first year of construction of key cities, at least 4 municipal districts and counties will build a guarantee system for the advancement of elite players in the district, including a number of kindergartens, 6 primary schools and above, 3 junior high schools or above, and 1 elite player going to high school and university.

According to statistics, by the end of 2022, a total of 16 high-quality education schools for young football players were supported in 703 key cities for football development, including 461 primary schools, 163 junior high schools, 76 high schools and 3 universities.

Kids kicking soccer. Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhai Yujia

Wang Lei, deputy director of the Youth Department of the State General Administration of Sports, said in an interview that the main goal of developing key football cities is how to truly grasp the work of football reserve talents from the grassroots level and grasp it solidly, which is crucial.

Wang Lei said frankly: "In the past, everyone started a team and participated in the competition. If there is no football culture formation, there are no more children who love football, Chinese football wants to rush out of Asia and go to the world, the road will be too long. ”

"The development of football is not only about achievements, but first of all, it is about benefiting children and making them grow up healthily. At the same time, competitive sports also have soil, plus sunlight and moisture, so that they will accumulate thick and thin, rather than simply rushing to find talents in the past. Wang Lei said. (End)