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November 13, 2009

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'Iron Hammer' pushes for reforms in domestic league

FORMER US coach Jenny Lang Ping, who helped launch China's first privately owned volleyball team this week, has called for a free market in player transfers to help the sport progress.

Volleyball has been one of China's top spectator sports since the early 1980s when the women's team's world championship and Olympic triumphs sparked huge celebrations around the country.

Lang, nicknamed the "Iron Hammer", was the top spiker on both the 1982 world and 1984 Olympic gold-medal winning teams before coaching China to the 1996 Olympics.

Attracted by a salary reported in local media to be worth five million yuan (US$732,400) a year, she returned to China after leading the US to silver at the Beijing Olympics to head up the new Guangdong Evergrande team.

Volleyball, like many sports in China, is dealing with a transition from state-run sport system to the more commercial western model.

"Our league definitely needs changes," Lang told Xinhua news Agency. "We have to have a free market and be professional just like in basketball and soccer.

"Free transfers and imported stars from overseas will quickly help develop the league."

Although the team will start in China's second tier, Lang's reputation has enabled her to attract top players like Athens Olympic champions Feng Kun, Yang Hao and Zhou Suhong.

Lang has also brought US internationals Nicole Davis and Christa Harmotto with her to southern China, but the reliance on experienced Chinese players could rebound on her under the transfer rules.

"In the long run, the veteran players will be hampered by physical problems and under current transfer system we would not be able buy any new star players from other teams," said Lang.


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