CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (7/29/2019 Mon.)

CHINA

Podcast: Story in the Story (7/29/2019 Mon.)

People's Daily app

01:50, July 29, 2019

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From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story. 

China's top education authority established pilot kindergartens specializing in soccer training.

In 2018, the Ministry of Education said the kindergartens need to develop an interest in soccer and encourage children to participate in activities including running, throwing, and ball handling to promote basic sports abilities.

More than 20,000 primary and high schools nationwide offer soccer coaching, and these schools have become mainstays of the country's soccer program

The short-term goal is to have 50 million children and adults playing the sport by the end of this decade. The long-term goal is to become a global soccer superpower. 

Today’s Story in the Story looks at China’s soccer initiative as the country is making efforts to become a global soccer powerhouse.

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Christopher Loch, FC Bayern coach of international programs, is directing soccer teachers at Bayern's Football School in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province. (Photo: Global Times)

On the playground on a hot summer's day, Ma Fenhua, 15, was playing in a football match, running hard and cheering every time her team scored.

"I had never imagined this in my first eight years living in the mountains, and I even had no idea what a football was back then," Ma said.

Ma was born in Jingyuan County, a formerly impoverished mountainous area in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region and moved 480 kilometers away to live in Lingwu with her family in 2012.

Lingwu, which has 41 football-playing schools, is where Ma's football dream began. "I saw a real football pitch the first year I moved here. It was so large and so flat, totally unlike anything in my village," Ma said.

While many girls of her age took up singing or dancing, Ma always preferred football, but her family was against her new hobby.

"She gets tanned and sometimes cries because of injuries or tiredness from all the training," said Bai Hongyan, Ma's sister. "We tried to persuade her to stop playing football, but we failed."

In 2017, Ma's dedication to her training was rewarded when she was one of 24 young footballers chosen to receive a government scholarship to travel to Britain for a 15-day training camp.

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((Photo: CGTN)

"I couldn't believe my ears upon hearing the news," Ma said. "I had never traveled anywhere even by train, let alone going abroad on an airplane."

During her time in the UK, Ma visited Brooke House College, which features a dedicated football academy, and Stoke City Football Club, where she was able to watch a Premier League match for the first time. "It still feels so unbelievable," Ma smiled.

Ma's trip drove her to become even more determined to play football, and she later joined the women's football team in her middle school, receiving more systematic training and playing matches just like a professional.

Her coach Ding Xin designed a two-hour training session to take place every afternoon, teaching Ma and her teammates how to dribble, pass and trap the ball, and instructing them how to defend and shoot.

"I'm a quick-tempered man, but I try to be soft when watching them practice," Ding said. "I feel at a loss what to do when I see the girls cry."

Meanwhile, Lyu Sunhao is the embodiment of China's dream of becoming a soccer powerhouse.

The 15-year-old is training in Argentina-home of global soccer prodigy Lionel Messi-hoping to absorb some of the nation's knack for the game.

"Pucca," as Lyu's fellow junior players affectionately call him, after the star character in a South Korean animated series, was destined to play soccer.

Born in Ningbo in eastern Zhejiang Province, his passion for the game was sparked by his father, Gao Xin, who has trained a large number of youngsters.

"Messi is my idol ... and for millions of other Chinese, too," said Lyu. 

"My dream is to play in Argentina, to become the first Chinese to debut in South America's first division, then return to my country to play for China's national team," he said.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Brian Lowe, Lance Crayon, and Paris Yelu Xu. Music by: bensound.com. Text from China Daily and Global Times.)

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