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Kids hold key to future success

By Xu Jingxi and Chen Xiangfeng | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-28

Pass the ball. Move forward. Take a pass. Dribble ... break through ... shoot ... goal!

Twelve primary school kids impressed a group of spectators - including Brazilian star Ronaldinho - with a demonstration of classic Barcelona-style soccer during 3-on-3 games on a small pitch at the Mission Hills golf complex in Haikou, Hainan Island.

Pau Lopez, project director of the Barcelona soccer academy that will open later this year in Haikou, ran with the young players, barking out instructions in his limited Chinese.

"We are still observing and evaluating the level of young Chinese players and will design a training system specially for them to provide comprehensive instruction in techniques and their understanding of the game," said Lopez, who will head the coaching team and has vowed to take Chinese language lessons.

The Barca academy in Haikou will be a clone of La Masia in terms of both facilities and training philosophy. Besides boarding students who aspire to become professional players, the academy will also host summer camps and weekend courses.

"Our first step is to touch as many people as possible and make everybody play football. The knowledge and engagement needs to raise up before we can scout talent," said Toni Claveria, project director for Asia and Oceania of FCBEscola, the official soccer school of Barcelona.

"What China's youth training system needs most is time," he said. "China is vigorously developing football. This is a good start, so we have come to join."

According to Ding Hui, director of the provincial sports authority of Hainan, China's chances of becoming a global soccer power depend on the sport's development among youth,

"Japan waited for 20 years before its youth training system bore fruit and helped the national team get back to the top in Asia in the 1990s. China is now planting the seeds for a solid foundation for the rise of its teams," Ding said. "The Barcelona academy is a boost to the development of soccer in Hainan and in China."

The nation has a promising future for its national soccer team, given the new generation of players on the youth teams that have already delivered impressive performances on the global stage, said Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu.