Young footballers to leave for overseas

Updated: 2011-09-09 07:50

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Twenty-four young Chinese footballers will head for Portugal for a two-year program at the end of this month.

All the players, to be dispersed between eight or nine Portuguese second and third-tier clubs will seal their contracts with the clubs on Friday, and will take part in the country's junior leagues this month after registering with the Portuguese Football Federation.

"The CFA sent a group of youngsters to Brazil in 1990s, among them a lot of players that emerged as the elite of Chinese soccer, and some even play nowadays in their 30s," said Wei Di, vice-chief of the Chinese Football Association (CFA).

"It will be very hard for Chinese soccer to improve without high-standard training for the players. Therefore we listed youth development as a priority of the CFA's work and launched the "Future Star" overseas program last year," Wei said.

The CFA plans to send more than 500 young players to Europe over the next five years under the "Future Star" program, and is expecting more sponsorship after Chinese company provided support to the first batch, which is expected to push for places on the national team for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and 2018 Russia World Cup.

"We are looking for cooperation with more companies, whether through sending players overseas or lifting the standard of domestic youth training," he said. "Chinese soccer has taken a wrong path in recent years, resulting in declining credibility and attendance. We must recognize the problems and catch up over the next 10 years."

Former national team player Sun Jihai, who played at Premier League club Manchester City, urged the juniors to learn more than just soccer while playing overseas.

"I hope they will go abroad with an open mind, see more, listen more, and learn more, to integrate into the local communities," said the 34-year-old, who is now playing with Chinese Super League club Shaanxi Chanba.

"They should learn Portuguese and play with youngsters from all over the world in Portugal. Without communication, it's just like a man without a leg, you cannot walk or run fast," said Sun.

"It's a precious opportunity for the young players since ample capital support will ensure them a good lifestyle overseas, and I believe a lot of them will become key members of local clubs and the national team in the future," he said.

China Daily