GOAL! China and its multimillion dollar sports industry
by Rachel Chormanski
As a global sport, soccer, or known worldwide as football, reaches almost every country of study. But Chinese President Xi Jinping has invested millions of dollars into revamping the sport and making it a routine part of life for his citizens.
He has instituted policies recently mandating that students attending school include football as a part of their curriculum. Jinping is trying to create an era of passion for this “beautiful game” he holds dear to his heart in hopes of entering and eventually hosting the Soccer World Cup, the highest tiered soccer event.
Alongside instituting soccer as real curriculum for students in Chinese public schools, there has recently been an outburst in private school emergence with soccer as their main focus. The most popular school is the Guangzhou Evergrande, a $185 million property that is home to more than 2,000 students with a campus that spans over 167 acres. Built in the Chinese countryside, the property holds over 50 fields for teams to play nonstop. Many students leave behind their mundane lives to continue to live their passion for the sport.
He Xinjie, a student, spoke about his opportunity to play at such a prestigious school: “I hope to make it into the national football team and then make it into the Spanish clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid.” If not, his plans are to “get into the national team and fight for national pride."
The school trains their students off of an ideology that, even though a predominantly athletic based school, academics are just as, if not more, important. Students spend approximately 80% of their day in classes, getting the same education they would back home, but the rest of their day is dedicated to football. They communally live together, eat together, and constantly surround themselves with each other to help their uniformity on the field. By doing almost everything together, communication greatly improves, thus increasing the team’s chance at winning a match!
China has recruited some of the top soccer coaches from around the world, but mainly from Spain, where Real Madrid is located. This is a professional football club headquartered in Spain and home to some of the most well known soccer legends. These Spanish coaches are on the sidelines yelling drills and orders at the student athletes, and they are quickly translated into Chinese by more coaches and staff along the sides. These students respect the opportunity the receive to play in front of such highly respected football coaches and constantly strive to impress them.
All of this money and hardwork are all working towards the same goal for China: to be given the opportunity to play in, and even host, the FIFA World Cup. They came close to this over a decade ago, but lost horribly and tarnished their appearance to the world leaders in this sport. Chinese coaches saw the problem firsthand, deciding that in order to change the world’s view of this sport, they needed to integrate youth players at a younger age. This is why schools and camps similar to the Guangzhou Evergrande were founded and remain high on the list of China’s budget expenditures.
China is hoping not just to climb as a world leader in the sport, but help bring families together for the love of the game. Every weekend at these soccer camps, parents and siblings travel far distances to witness family members showcase the skills they’ve practiced all week. Along with family members, recruiters and soccer stars perch themselves high above the fields to see who shines out of the teams for future recruitment. Family members hope for the opportunity to be given to their children a high paying job in the professional soccer. They are hopeful their investment of time and money in their children’s future will pay off. Currently, tuition for the Guangzhou Evergrande School can reach up to 60,000 yuan a year, or close to $10,000 USD. This tuition is slightly higher than the average income per person, so many families and students rely on scholarships to gain access to this learning environment.
Past Chinese generations would see recreational sports as a misuse of time and prohibit resources to be wasted. However, all of a sudden a wave hit Asia and unleashed their passion for the sport. Instead of parents pushing their children toward prestigious careers like law or medicine, they understand that their child can also be successful with football. In the past, individualized sports, like swimming or gymnastics, were the only ones to be recognized at giving their child a potentially successful life, but China is moving into the future of athletics by entering the soccer arena. The sudden flood of investments and effort being put into football is all in hopes of reforming China’s rank in the Asian, and eventually global leaderboards. At this time, China’s national soccer team, the Chinese Super League, is ranked 96th out of all of the world. Their hopes are to see improvement both short term and long term with the help of these soccer schools sprouting up everywhere. According to Principal of Guangzhou Evergrande, “In about four years, Chinese football will definitely see an improvement and maybe return to be one of the top contenders in Asia. And of course, in about 20 or 30 years we will set our sights on the top world rankings.”
Athletics have always been an activity that bring people together, regardless of their differences for the love of the sport. Soccer is integral for the next generation in China, to the point where everyone is being forced to learn how to play. In the future, the world will witness China’s rise to power in the football stadium, and maybe that even translates to their prestige as a world power. Because, two things that make a nation powerful is a booming economy and a great soccer team, and China has both.