Budding young Chinese soccer players hone their skills with Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich (right) and David Alaba last week in Guangzhou. Provided to China Daily
Like many other world-famous soccer clubs that have visited China Chase Edmonds Black Jersey , Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich orchestrated a whirlwind of activities during the team's preseason tour last week.
Three matches in three cities in six days, and the millionaire stars' time away from training was filled with numerous fan meetings arranged by sponsors.
Any fatigue was driven away by the enthusiasm of the Chinese fans.
Three Bayern players - Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich - coached 22 youngsters aged 8-10 at a Guangzhou camp organized by automaker FAW-Volkswagen.
The trio had just finished a training session in preparation for a friendly against Chinese champion Guangzhou Evergrande after flying from Shanghai to the South China city in the afternoon.
The training camp started at about 9 pm, but their delight shone through as they guided the kids through dribbling, passing and shooting routines.
Alcantara recalled he had the opportunity to work out with one of his idols as a child, and that memory has remained with him.
"It is a great opportunity for kids to take part in the youth training camps coached by so many top clubs. Some of them may become professional players in the future ... some may not.
"But at their age, the best thing they can do is to enjoy soccer and have fun," said the Bayern midfielder.
The brief session was not expected to enhance the skill level of the 22 young players, but rubbing shoulders with star players could encourage them to follow their soccer dreams, said Zhang Pijie, general manager of FAW-Volkswagen.
Volkswagen Group, the joint venture's German founder, is a major shareholder of Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg. Zhang said the company hopes to boost development of Chinese youth soccer.
As the sponsor of Bayern Munich's China tour, FAW-Volkswagen brought Chinese fans high-level competition by matching the team against Spanish club Valencia in Beijing, Italian club Inter Milan in Shanghai and Guangzhou Evergrande in Guangzhou.
At the same time, it also created many opportunities for young Chinese to learn from the Bundesliga champion's players and coaches. Besides the training camp, members of the coaching team also gave a two-hour, Bayern-type training session to more than 100 young players in Guangzhou.
FAW-Volkswagen also announced establishment of a fund for Chinese youth soccer in partnership with the China Sports Foundation and the Chinese Football Association.
The automaker will invest at least 6 million yuan ($966,000) annually until 2017, said Zhang.
The fund will mainly be used to set up nonprofit youth training camps in Northeast China's Changchun, Southwest China's Chengdu, East China's Qingdao and South China's Foshan - the four cities where FAW-Volkswagen factories are located.
The camps will select players aged 10-12 who perform well at inter-school tournaments and provide them with at least 90 training sessions per year overseen by professional coaches registered by the Chinese Football Association.
As the program develops, FAW-Volkswagen will invite foreign coaches to the camps and send young Chinese players and coaches abroad to receive further training, Zhang said.
"Chinese youth soccer requires a better platform for its development. We are incapable of building the platform on our own, but we want to set an example and get more enterprises joining the force to boost the youth training of Chinese soccer," Zhang said.
Bayern stars boost China's game plan
The 22 youngsters who took part in the practice session were from Guangzhou's Yushatan Primary School, whose soccer team finished second in its age group in a national competition in February.
More than 10,000 teams entered the event, jointly organized by CCTV, the General Administration of Sport and the Ministry of Education, which highlighted reignited passion for the sport.
A national soccer development plan was approved in February by the central reform group, chaired by President Xi Jinping, an avid soccer fan, to encourage youngsters to get involved in the sport.
According to the plan, the Ministry of Education aims to introduce soccer training at primary and secondary schools nationwide and to increase the number of schools featuring soccer from the current level of 5,000 to 50,000 by 2025.
By that time, there should be 50 million players at schools, which means China will have the biggest "soccer population" in the world, nearly 10 times the number of Germany.
That expansion will provide a much larger talent pool to draw from, said Wang Dengfeng, director of the ministry's physical education, health and arts department.
The youth soccer promotion program is also expected to increase public awareness and support of the sport, while enterprises, like FAW-Volkswagen, will allocate even more resources to boost the game, according to Zhang Bin, a CCTV sports anchorman.
Zhang believes the youth soccer training camps that FAW-Volkswagen plans to set up are similar to those set up by the German soccer association in its own country at the beginning of this century in order to resuscitate German soccer after the national team's poor performances at the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000.
"The German soccer association did two things," said Zhang.
"On one hand, it sent well-trained coaches to the centers it opened all over the country to give kids elite training. On the other, it bridged the centers with the youth training systems of professional clubs, paving a smooth channel for young amateurs with star quality to rise to professional players.
"The Chinese Football Association alone doesn't h
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