In an interview published in Southern People Weekly (南方人物周刊) on Friday, Guangzhou Evergrande’s Italian coach Marcello Lippi spoke about a range of topics regarding Chinese football, including his views on the development of football in China as a whole.
In the interview, dated 14 February, Lippi is seen to be busy preparing his Evergrande side for the return of the football season a couple of weeks later. It is reportedly the first full length exclusive interview that the Italian has consented to since arriving in China.
Below, then, are some excerpts from the article focusing on Lippi’s views on football in China and the next step in the country’s footballing development.
SPW: Have you been able to sense yet that in Chinese football, whatever the time period, the club’s are there to serve the National Team? Has the political side of football been stressed to you?
Lippi: It’s not a problem that I think too much about. As I came to this country, of course I will slowly adapt to the customs here. China is not a developed footballing country, it is still developing. We are all here to help raise the standards of Chinese football.
SPW: You and your staff have already been here more than half a year. What have you found Chinese football’s biggest problem to be so far?
Lippi: The biggest problem is that Chinese football does not have a rich long-term culture. In Europe or Brazil, for example, you will see kids playing football on the street. In China, you will rarely see kids kicking a ball at the side of the road. The number of kids who have contact with football is less. Footballing culture has still not developed to a high enough level where it becomes tradition.
SPW: In your opinion, how should football culture be built?
Lippi: The best way of building football culture is to get kids into contact with football from an early age. At primary school kids should be given enough opportunity to play football. What I have learned is that the time kids have at primary school to play football is comparatively low. From an Evergrande perspective, our chairman Xu Jiayin has set up a very big football school to train youngsters to play football. However, not every club has a school like this. This is not a complicated matter, you don’t have to do much. The club simply has to build a few pitches and then allow some of the former athletes to be coaches and allow those children who come to play to have contact with famous players. In this way you can nourish many youngsters with interest in football. Italy is a very small country but there are football schools across the country. This is a good way to develop football.
SPW: Over the past two years, some clubs in China have spent a lot of money and brought in some big names from Europe. I don’t know how you see this strategy of buying high price stars, is it a shortcut to improve results?
Lippi: Buying a few big name players will not solve the problems of Chinese football, it’s not like that. You have also seen that last year Shenhua bought Drogba and Anelka, while Aerbin bought Keita. But, these two teams did not enjoy good results last year. In China, it is still the country’s football that is most important. Buying good players is of course a good thing. They can help teams and the number of people watching football will become more and more. People are interested if there is a big name player. However, this is certainly not a good way of solving problems. The best effect it has is to promote the sport so that more Chinese people love this sport and then we can bring through some famous young players.
SPW: Do you know China now has a new leader?
Lippi: I heard that China’s new leader is Xi Jinping. Some people told me that he really likes football.
SPW: From your experience in Italy, if the leader of a country likes football will it help promote the game?
Lippi: I know China is the most populous country so, to have leaders that like football is a good thing. It will certainly be one thing that helps promote the game.
Previously on the site, we have featured a separate interview in which Lippi discussed the plight of the National Team, transfers and Chinese New Year.
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