By Joshua Rasia Travel & Sports Correspondent at YNBC
“Chinese football will revive in the future, but it needs hard work, generation by generation'' the coach of Chinese football, Li Xiaopeng mentioned in his last interview
The Golden Era
Having wasted a large sum of money in the five years between 2015 and 2020 with a lot of talented players coming over to China due to the money paid for them the approach for the players has now changed.
Out of nowhere, China's investments started in 2012 when Marcello Lippi, the previous National coach of Italy, winner of the World Cup in 2006, was hired by Guangzhou Evergrande. Altogether some big names reached Chinese football, attracted by his expertise and fame of him. Cannavaro, the captain of that national team of Italy shortly joined and became his assistant, replacing him even in 2018. All these were also supported by the state with the Chinese government investing money in facilities, staff, and new football pitches all around the country. The dream to see China win the World Cup by 2030 began to seem achievable.
Hulk, Oscar, Tevez, Anelka, Kanoute, Kim, Elkeson, Martins, Fellaini, and Essien, all of them already big International stars, were attracting a lot of tourists and the Chinese love for football was growing day by day.
Elkeson and Oscar were so famous in China that they were even granted citizenship, allowing them to play for the national team of China, in the hope of developing the football system in the country.
The Great Wall
It's 2019 and the Chinese government decided to tighten the salaries and the number of foreigners in each club. This meant also a severe punishment and even relegation for the club who were not respecting it. The government understood that to compete they need to work on their young talents, allowing Chinese players to play in the biggest teams and developing football schools and facilities aside from the foreign big names that they have attracted in the previous years.
Furthermore, the most prestigious clubs started to sell their foreign players and the lockdown of early 2020 completed the massive escape of all foreign players except for a few who are still in China nowadays.
How AI is changing the Chinese approach to football
With the arrival of AI the Chinese, always open to avant-garde solutions decided to use wristbands are collecting thousands of data to assist the players in making the right decision at the right time. These technologies are providing accurate statistics about what is happening with the ball on the pitch, making it possible for coaches to automatically track, evaluate and eventually correct each player’s movements.
Endorsed by China’s Education Ministry, the Chinese Football Association, and leading tech corporations, the digitalization of football training has become the focus of all major academies around the country. For example, during training sessions, devices collect hundreds of data points, including ball control, sprints, and dribbling. In addition, accelerometers and gyroscopes are also used to render a virtual picture of the players’ body movements and changes in posture during activity. Will this be enough to see Chinese football reach the top level?