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A coach passes on the football dream to youth in remote Xinjiang

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-07-25 16:38

URUMQI — Ehat Yasin, 66, has played on the football field for just six years, but since then, has been coaching hundreds of youth players for three decades in China's northwesternmost area.

He is not as successful as someone like Alex Ferguson, but he is regarded as the greatest manager in the remote Chinese town. Even when walking on the street, he is always recognized and called "coach," almost like a local football icon.

Ehat is from Tacheng city, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, one of China's remotest and most underdeveloped areas.

China has embarked on a youth football development program to set up more schools specializing in football, aiming to build up the sport at the grassroots.

Home to 47 ethnic groups, Xinjiang boasts great passion for football, but lacks fields and a professional training system due to economic underdevelopment, meaning that fostering growth for the sport in the region is more difficult than in more inland parts of China.

The football-fanatic Ehat wanted to help in this effort. After an early retirement from his playing career, the then 25-year-old man continued devoting himself to football by setting up and managing a school and a team for local amateurs.

He gave up a well-paid job in Urumqi, regional capital of Xinjiang, and instead went back home to underdeveloped Tacheng to ignite football fever among local youths.

However, coaching is much harder than playing, as Ehat soon found out. Although experienced on the field, he knew little about theory.

"I had no idea what data I should look at when I selected players for the team," Ehat recalls.

To make up for what he lacked, he went for further study in sports colleges.

Throughout the three decades, Ehat has coached youth teams of different ages, but what remains unchanged is his motto: "to be strict."

"They are just playful kids, therefore I must be strict with them during training and games," he says.

When taking his teams to competitions across the country, Ehat has no time for sightseeing. He looks after his players at the dorm, and does not sleep until he is sure everyone goes to bed.

Under his strict coaching guidance, hundreds of youths have reached different football leagues in different parts of Xinjiang. Ehat, however, stays behind, also providing consulting services in many local teams.

"We will invite Ehat to be an advisor in our club. His experience is priceless to us," remarked Baoyin, captain of the Tarbagatay Multi-Ethnic Unity Youth Team.

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