EXCLUSIVE: Byer on the state of Chinese youth development

EXCLUSIVE: Byer on the state of Chinese youth development


There is much talk these days about Chinese football grassroots/youth development, or lack thereof to be more specific. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Tom and Mr Lu, one of the architects of the CSF Program

Yes, it is true, “Reality Bites”, if you look at post-USA 1994 when China was ranked 50th in the World and Japan 55th. Today China is ranked 98th while Japan is 29th. Yes, the FIFA Rankings aren’t always the best indicator of where a country’s level is but it gives you a reference point on how a country is doing.

There are differencing opinions on why Chinese football has taken a wrong turn. One popular opinion is the one Child Policy. Parents see sport as a distraction to education. Do you encourage academics over athletics?

Back in 2011 there were only 7,000 registered players with the CFA between the ages of 13 to 19. This compared with Japan’s 500,000 for the same age group.

Another opinion is that China has separate Ministries of Sport and Education whereas in Japan these two posts are held by one Ministry.

In order to get China back on the Road to Football recovery, the Chinese School Football Program was created in 2009. This is the first time that the joint Ministries, both Education and Sport, were directed by the State Council to cooperate in developing a program to implement football into education, hence the creation of the Chinese School Football Program. This is a 10 year Program which is divided up into 3 different Stages.

Stage 1: June 2009 to August 2013
2009-2011 Elementary School (4th to 6th grade) and Junior High School (7th grade to 9th grade) program kick off.
2012-2013 Senior High School (10th to 12th grade) and College program kick off.

Stage 2: September 2012 to August 2014
Improve program and ensure quality control for future expansions.

Stage 3: September 2013 to August 2018
Create demand from children, parents and schools to grow the program in a sustainable and stable manner.

Currently, there are approximately 120 Cities, 6,000 plus Schools and approximately 2.3 million (yes, million) children in the program.

What this means is, 2.3 million children receive football instruction on average three hours per week in their school. From that 2.3 million, approximately 10% are part of an organised team training on a regular basis, three to four times a week.

To give more insight into how the program is administered, the CSF Office works with Provinces and Cities who have a direct link to the Schools.

In August 2012, my company, T3, was appointed Official CSF Head Technical Advisor & Grassroots Ambassador to the Chinese School Football Program. We are providing content and instruction for the program by developing a multi-media platform similar to what we did in Japan.

Tom delivers the CSF Program

The biggest difference compared to Japan is this program actually has a Government policy behind it and Japan did not. Japan’s program that I was involved in was purely a commercial, private venture where today we have over 100+ technical Schools throughout the country with approximately 16,000 children participating.

We spent two decades educating the Japanese on the importance of technical development through a variety of different programs. From our experience in Japan I believe we are in a position to advise the CSF Program on shortcuts to implementing a similar program to Japan, but with much higher impact.

To detail this program a bit more, the multi-media platform is a work in progress which will eventually deliver technical content through multiple channels (i.e., TV, apps/video streaming, newspapers & magazines, microblog/Weibo, Portal/Website).

Some of this has already started, on the CSF’s Weibo account and website we have uploaded all of the DVD content which includes 36 individual lessons to improve your technique. This will empower players, coaches and parents in helping to guide children in the right direction to improve their skills.

These lessons have already been watched by millions of people over the past few months and this is only the beginning. We are developing new content and coming up with new channels for delivery.

And just to show the interest, my personal Weibo account which was started approximately nine monthss ago has already grown to over 210,000 followers. This account is used to inspire and motivate the followers to assist in spreading the word on the importance of youth development, specifically, the intense practice of ball manipulation and technique.

The concept we devised for Japan was to empower players, parents and coaches with the tools needed to create strong technical players which led to infecting an entire generation with the belief that technique is the foundation upon which you build all other facets of the game. We made teaching and learning a cool thing to do!

What needs to be done in order to create a paradigm shift in China’s overall level is, to close the gap between the very worst and the very best players. It must be done at the very young ages first and trickle up. Japan has accomplished this and that is the reason for their current success.

There is no quick fix for Chinese football and it will take years to get it right. But I am confident that we will have success through the Chinese School Football Program and that this could become the model program for other countries to follow in the future.

There has never been a program like this that I have ever seen anywhere else in the world. A program which has a Government policy behind it!

Here is a quote that stands out from October 12, 2009:

“China must have determination to develop its football….but this will take a long time.” Vice President of People’s Republic of China, Mr. Xi Jinping, who is now the current President.

Another quote worth repeating:

“Starting from young kids, properly develop the China School Football Program…The Party and the State Council are positioning Youth Sports development at a National Strategic Level.”

Ms. Liu Yandong, Member of 17th Central Politburo of Communist Party of China and State Councilor of the People’s Republic of China, Oct. 14th, 2009. This perhaps, the most powerful Women in China.

And although it’s great to have David Beckham come through China on a whirlwind media tour which has shed light on the Chinese School Football Program, it’s really the coaches and teachers working at the CSF Schools that are the real heroes.

So let’s all get behind the CSF Program and hope for the best. Because if we don’t get it right with this organisation, it could be much longer before we see China back at the top level of football on both a regional and global level!

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