Focusing on the children: Who is being trained?

So far we have mainly talked about the coaches. However, the whole programme is, of course, primarily about one thing: the youngsters who have to be encouraged with the help of new training methods. Who exactly are the children the coaches worked with in Changzhou for two months?

The balance between education and training

The teams are not club teams in the classic way as we know them from Germany. Here, too, things are different in Chinese football. Instead of being organised in clubs, the children in this programme play football primarily during the school holidays. The reason for this is that education is the top priority. “Different state, different system. It is difficult for the children to combine football and education. School, and later university, is the most important thing,” explains project manager Jianbo He. The kids would not usually go to training just for fun. “When children in Germany want to play football, they can do it because they want to.” In China though, the focus is on the idea of achievement – an aspect that was talked about within the two-month training period. “We try to teach children how to love football. They should have fun while training. The Chinese version is too often too strict,” explains Jianbo He. And the coaches managed to kindle this enthusiasm within the two months: “The kids really enjoyed it.”

The coaches also noticed this in everyday training. After the promising children had been discovered at schools by scouts and invited to take part in the two months of training, they were divided into groups. Each coach worked with different groups – sometimes with girls, sometimes with boys of different age groups.

“I’ll never forget that”

Every group aroused enthusiasm among the trainers. “The children soaked up everything they could. For me, that’s a sign that they are having fun,” says Dennis Spiegel happily. The training was well received – even if football is not calling the tune nationwide. “Of course, they know great football players as well. Juventus Turin played nearby, Inter Milan, too. But they also have other interests, we should never forget that. “In those two months, however, the focus was on football – and that produced excellent results. “They learned very fast. I was surprised,” says Gazmend Xhepa. “The kids learned faster and they liked the training.” Many things were new for the children, but that doesn’t mean they were accepted with less enthusiasm. “We had a very good relationship with the children. I liked it.” An impression shared by Marco Almeida regarding his group. “The best thing I saw every day were the smiles on their faces. They came to every training session happy.”

Their mentality and commitment made a powerful impression on the coaches. The children were able to prove their skills in tournaments during the two months – and in the end, trainers and students were very satisfied with the results. “In the end it was the joy and gratitude on their faces – that’s an impression I won’t forget,” recalls Dennis Spiegel.

That’s why the separation after the intense two months of training was more difficult. However, the project is still at the start. How will it continue in the future? Find out in the next post!