December’s annual AFC Awards were a major success for China, with Guangzhou Evergrande’s success in the Champions League ensuring that the country was well represented when it came to the gala in Kuala Lumpur.
Of course, while it was heralded as a success for the Chinese Football Association, all the nominees and winners on the men’s side came courtesy of the all-conquering Cantonese side. Indeed, the only non-Evergrande nominee of the night came from the women’s game in the form of 18-year-old Wuhan forward Wang Shuang—nominated for the Best Young Player award, eventually won by Korean Jang Sel-gi.
Wang was the standout performer for China at the AFC Under-19 Championship in October last year, scoring five goals in three games to emerge as one of the stars of the tournament.
Women’s football has traditionally been a successful area for China, with the side reaching both Olympic and World Cup finals in the late 1990s and winning the Asian Cup on eight occasions. However, results have dropped off in recent years, with the Steel Roses falling behind Japan, North Korea, Australia and South Korea in the current FIFA rankings.
Wang, though, is a source of hope for coach Hao Wei ahead of the 2014 Asian Cup in Vietnam. Signed by Sports TOTO FC in South Korea midway through 2013, she is one of just a couple of Chinese players currently on professional terms.
After just six months, in which she was voted MVP as TOTO finished as runner up in the Korean FA Cup, Wang has earned herself a new deal with the Cheongbuk side. However, she is keen to downplay her successes of the past 12 months.
“Last year I was fortunate that, starting in January, coach Hao Wei called me to the national team and gave me opportunities to play and experience big games. I was able to slowly mature,” she told Wild East Football.
“I think my performances and nomination last year owe much to the opportunities that Hao gave me, as well as all those coaches who have helped me in the past. I still don’t consider last year to be a complete success, though, as I still have many areas of my game that I need to continue improving.”
Improvement is a theme of the conversation with Wang, who will attend both the Asian Cup and Under-20 World Cup in 2014 as well as looking to make her mark in Korea. The Beijing Sangao academy product, though, is looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“Over the last six months, I’ve not been able to get a feel for playing in Korea,” she added. “With international matches, the National Games and the Asian Under-19 Championship, I haven’t been able to spend that much time here so far. However, I’ve now signed a new contract.
“The pressure has been greater since coming here as the team is undergoing big changes, with nine new players arriving. The coach has also told me that we are aiming to win the league this season.
“I just hope I can help the national team to achieve the best results possible. On a personal level, it’s important to keep improving myself as a footballer and then, hopefully, I will have the opportunity to play in Europe in the future.”
China’s women may not be the feared side they once were, but with Wang and 20-year-old colleague Li Ying now playing professionally in South Korea there are at least some reasons to hope for improvement in the coming years.
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