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April 15, 2015

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Gullit, Capello upbeat on China

CHINA should send more coaches abroad to study and speed up match pace to further improve soccer in the country, according to well-known coaches Ruud Gullit and Fabio Capello.

Both football legends are in Shanghai for the Laureus World Sports Awards which will be held at Shanghai Grand Theatre this evening.

Gullit has made several trips to China, his last visit being to Beijing with the national team for a friendly two years ago.

“Chinese footballers need to play in a faster tempo. They should avoid playing sloppy soccer or making easy passing mistakes,” the former Dutch star said.

Since Chinese matches are not televised in Europe, Gullit was talking from the impression he gained after watching some Chinese league games on TV after arriving in Shanghai.

“To develop football here, you need to cultivate a culture, and then upgrade everything else. Right now, China doesn’t have a team to qualify for the World Cup. But they will in the future. I know (Marcello) Lippi is here, and they can all help,” said former Chelsea coach.

Capello also held bright prospects for Chinese soccer given the country’s large population. “The future is here as there are 1.3 billion people in the country. But they need to learn and build good academies and pitches. Good coaches are also extremely important,” said the Russian national team manager.

China advanced to the World Cup finals in 2002, but since then the sport has been stagnant, with the top-tier league mired in corruption scandals and uninspired play. The central state television stopped broadcasting games for a while and game attendances fell dramatically.

The government then took notice, launching a series of crackdown on corruption, resulting in the arrests of top officials, national players and referees.

In 2013, Guangzhou Evergrande won the first Asian Champions League trophy for China. The club was purchased by real estate giant Evergrande after its relegation from the top tier for match fixing in 2010. The big-spending club signed Italian coach Lippi, Argentina striker Dario Conca, as well as a bunch of Chinese national players, and it clinched the top Asian honor after three years.

Other Chinese Super League teams won’t mind spending money if they can replicate the Evergrande model. Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, which once boasted the likes of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, signed Australian international Tim Cahill this season. Its city rival Shanghai SIPG hired former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson this year, and signed Conca, who spent some time in Brazil after leaving Evergrande. CSL clubs spent a record US$85.5 million on foreign players this season, which is the third highest in the world.

“To hire coaches and players from abroad does help. But Chinese coaches also need to go out and study abroad. They will learn more,” Capello said when asked if the big spending would pay off.

Gullit suggested that China can learn from its neighbor Japan, which has a very successful J-League.

While both coaches emphasized the importance of cultivating youth, former Chinese women’s national team captain Sun Wen believes adjusting people’s understanding towards soccer, or even sports in general, is the key to developing grass-roots talent.

“Parents need to throw away their prejudice against sports, and not over-protect their children,” Sun said. “Some parents are afraid of injuries, which is common in sports. But they need to face it with a correct attitude.”

Capello, Gullit, Sun, as well as former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol and ex-French international Louis Saha showed up at Shanghai Datong High School as Laureus soccer ambassadors to interact with young local footballers.


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