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Bai Zijian – The Chinese Theo Walcott?

On February 14th, 2011, out of the blue, the Korean League’s Daejeon Citizen announced they had signed a Chinese youth star named Bai Zijian. This news raised many eyebrows among Chinese netizens as they had never heard this player  before.  Daejeon Citizen also mentioned that the 19-year-old midfielder had tremendous potential,  and could dash 100 meters within 10.67 seconds.

So who the heck is Bai Zijian? After extensive research, ‘s Smari brings you an intriguing profile of this nameless Chinese star.

Low Tide – The Denial

Bai Zijian was born in Shenyang and he is ethnic Korean Chinese. He was always interested in football, but education had been a hindrance for him. Bai struggled in choosing his future path between education and football. After extensive discussions with his family, he decided to place university enrolment as his priority, and then focus into football.

For a couple of years, Bai had been searching for a professional football team, but was unsuccessful. Wang Chao, a player who is friends with Bai, recommended the speedy star to Shenyang Dongjin football club of the second-tier China League One. But because Bai did not have any formal football training before, Dongjin did not accept the player. Wang Chao later played for a Shenzhen football team and there he recommended Bai for a trial, but nothing came of this.

Li Shubin, then coach of Chongqin Lifan , had known Bai Zijian since the young talent was 10 years old. Under the policy of Chinese Super League, there is a quota for signing players during the transfer window. However, youth players do not take up any quota. Li Shubin recognized Bai’s potential and realized his age would not impact Chongqing’s signing quota. Bai was immediately snapped in 2010 and Chongqing Lifan became his first professional football club. However, Bai did not even play a single minute for the team.

He worked mainly as translator for Cho Se-Kwon, a South Korean defender that played for Chongqing Lifan during the 2010 season. Halfway through the year, Li Shubin was dismissed because of the club’s dire performance. Bai Zijian, who was considered surplus by the Chongqing management, and knew his days in the club were numbered so he left shortly after Li Shubin’s departure.

Giving up football for the second time, Bai Zijian decided to go back to school. Bai planned to meet up with his father, who works in South Korea, and continue his education in a Korean university. A best friend of Bai’s father, who knew the coach of Daejeon Citizen, heard about Bai’s story and told the coach about the young midfielder’s potential.

In January 2011, when Daejeon Citizen held a spring training session in Guangzhou, the coach invited Bai Zijian for a trial.

High Tide– The Revival

During the training, the Daejeon team played a match every day. Wang Sun-Jae, the coach, consistently gave Bai time on the pitch. Bai impressed in his trial and was immediately offered a two-year contract.

Wang Sun-Jae said, “In modern football, agility is very important, especially the player’s speed in reaching 30 meters. It is difficult to find a player with fine combination of speed and football skill. When someone recommended Bai Zijian to me, I realize he has tremendous talent on his speed play. His acceleration is very good too. However, honestly speaking, I understand that he had some problems in his training for the past few years, and his technical abilities require extensive improvement”.

Current Status

According to the Bigsoccer China forum, after Bai Zijian was signed, the young player immediately enjoyed playing time on the pitch. Up till now (May 14th), Bai Zijian has played nine games for Daejeon Citizen, with four games in the K-League and five games in the K-League Cup. He usually plays as a sub in the K-League and starts in the K-League Cup games.

In May, the Chinese Football Association announced the roster for the 2012 London Olympics qualifier training. Unexpectedly, Bai Zijian’s name was included.

During the 2006 World Cup, England coach Eriksson surprised the world when he called up Theo Walcott, a nameless speedy talent that had not played a single minute for Arsenal, to the England World Cup squad.

Bai Zijian’s situation does have some paralells to Walcott’s, despite China not participating in the World Cup. Because for Bai Zijian, after years of failure in China and give up on football twice, maybe in Bai’s heart, his surprise inclusion in the China Olympics squad will make the nameless talent the same kind of satisfaction as participating in the World Cup.

Maybe, for Theo Walcott, a player who had never turned out for Arsenal before going to the World Cup in 2006, that was how he felt too.

For your interest:

Theo Walcott = 9.9 seconds in 100m

Bai Zijian = 10.67 seconds in 100m

Ever since witnessing Yang Chen’s near goal opportunity in the game of China vs. Turkey in World Cup 2002 from his bed at 3am, Smari has developed an avid interest in following the Chinese national team. He had seen how the Chinese team was worshiped as gods during the World Cup 2002 and Asian Cup 2004, and how they are treated like shit since the failure to qualify for the World Cup 2006. Smari joined Wild East Football as a contributor because he realized there is a need for the world to know about Chinese football. There is an almost bare minimum amount of English language forums or websites that strictly talk about Chinese football, the Chinese Super League, the Chinese national team, etc. The world needs to know that Chinese football is not about Shaolin football, corruption, diving, and cheating; we are about playing with our heart to bring smiles to our already embarrassed fans. Smari hopes he would be able to witness the improvement of Chinese football and spend all his life savings to watch Guojiadui’s second World Cup appearance at whatever venue, even a warzone. Apart from writing/translating Chinese football news, Smari loves playing mahjang, imitating how Samri Nasri dribbles in the Emirates pitch, watching how Adam Johnson terrorizes his rivals, learning bar tending to make up his reason for consistent drunkenness, being artistically weird by shooting abstract photos, and defeating boringism in his mundane life. He also loves traveling, and he hopes to have his own apartment that is filled with national team jerseys from every country he visited. Smari often attributes his depression to the current dire state of Chinese football, let’s hope he won’t turn insane soon.

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