Gansu’s campus guru eyes bigger picture for Chinese game

LANZHOU, Gansu province-The satisfaction of winning provincial championships and producing quality young players keeps pushing Zhang Dehe forward to fulfill his dream-making campus soccer a breeding ground of talent for the Chinese game.,The 57-year-old soccer coach has led No 2 High School of Jingyuan County from nowhere to champion of Gansu province in Northeast China.,”There was no real soccer equipment in the school when I arrived here initially, except for three old balls. There was nothing else,” said Zhang, adding that the team would obtain only four new balls every year, and if a ball became damaged it would be repaired and continue to be used.,In 1988, Zhang Dehe returned to No 2 High School, his alma mater, as a PE teacher and coach of the soccer team after graduating from college.,Around 100 students signed up for the team, with 26 of the best players forming the squad. However, only half of those selected actually turned up for the first early-morning training session.,”Many parents prioritized their children’s studies and strongly opposed their soccer training,” Zhang said.,He was so determined to see the project succeed that he decided to supervise the players’ academic courses in a classroom every evening. He talked to the parents and students, easing their concerns, and persuaded teachers to allow students to stay on the team.,”Soccer is not a burden for children. Playing this sport not only lets students exercise, but also improves their determination to keep positive, and helps them learn to cooperate,” said Zhang.,In 1999, Zhang’s efforts paid off as his team won the first high-school soccer championship in Gansu.,After that, No 2 High School became regular participants in provincial competitions, with the team’s trophy cabinet filling up by the year.,Zhang won national awards as the outstanding coach of campus soccer from 2004 to 2013, and was also shortlisted by the Chinese Schools Football Association for a separate award in 2020.,Over the past decade, No 2 High School has sent over 300 soccer talents to universities across China, including Beijing Sport University and Lanzhou University.,”Many of these students have become school soccer coaches,” said Zhang.,Forty-six-year-old Jia Yonggang, who also graduated from No 2 High School, was the driving force as his school team won the Gansu championship in 1993. Jia then returned to his hometown as a PE teacher after graduating from university in 1996.,Since then, Jia and his mentor Zhang have honed their coaching craft together.,”The idea of passing down from generation to generation is very important,” Jia said.,Jia was selected to visit France in 2015 to participate in coaching courses. Two years ago, No 2 High School recruited an Argentine coach for its students.,Zhang stressed that campus soccer should not be solely viewed through a prism of results and trophies, but also the fitness and educational benefits it offers young people.,China has exceeded its target of building 20,000 soccer-themed schools by 2020, and the number of children playing soccer has increased steadily.,Xinhua