John Yan: Mr Perrin, there are only 42 kids in the younger age group… 四十二个孩子

Alan Perrin started his career as the head coach of China national team formally, and played two friendly matches during the FIFA international match week. China didn’t lose these two, which were a victory against Kuwait and a draw against Jordan, both played at home. The Frenchman’s first mission will be taking Team China to next year’s Asian Cup held in Australia.

China is allocated in Group C, with Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea as opponents, the expectation is not high, and most football fans in China do not expect China to qualify for the next stage – not to ‘lose face’, would be Alan Perrin’s mission target.

It is a bit like the England vs Norway friendly in the half empty Wembley Stadium. International football has reached such a low point, that Guangzhou Evergrande FC has become the magnetic attraction of Chinese football in recent years, far more interesting than the hopeless national team, according to most media comments here.

Just as the national team sauntered through these two friendly matches, anther China national team encountered serious defeats in Asia, the U16 national team lost to Australia and Japan in the group stage of the Asian U16 Championship held in Bangkok, and were relegated. What stirred up more media and public interests, was the horrible conditions that the U16 national team had been through for the past 18 months, because the team were formed on April 2013.

There were only 218 registered young footballers who could meet the age group requirements then! 218, and after strict bone age tests, less than 70 players qualified. Then the head coach of U16 China, Mr. Zhang Haitao, told media that the real number of players he could pick and choose, were only 42.

The lack of funding was so serious that nutritional standards for this team were below par, for long distance travelling, the whole team could only take the train, for more than 30 hours, to make the trip from the northeast of China to Guangzhou, which is equal to the distance from Moscow to Paris. When the team was relegated from the Asian U16 Championship, Mr.Zhang still hadn’t received his salary for months.

No-one seems to care about this team, even though it has ‘China’ on its badge. The sorry truth is that this team was in the ODD year age group, because all kids were born on 1998, an even number year.

All youth development age groups in China’s football youth development, still have a strong Olympic purpose, therefore, kids born in an even number year, would always have trouble climbing into the National Olympic Team, and then the full international team. Kids born in 1998, when the 2020 Olympics Game comes, would be one year younger than the standard U23 team members. They have been losing ground in football development, from the day they were born.

And you can’t claim that nobody cares about the Olympics, because that is still the main task of the National Sports Administration, and on each administrative level, there is a sports department, theoretically, that governs the youth development of sports, which includes these football kids born on even number years. Budgets are always limited, Gold medals targets are always related to all level of officials’ political futures; the U16 football kids, whose chances of attributing to the medals hope in an Olympic Games are so slim, who would be rooting for them?

Just as the China Super League is rich with all real estate capital cash, youth development remains an area where there is no interest.

Alain Perrin has a three year contract with China, the qualification stage of World Cup 2018 would be far more important than his team’s performance in next year’s Asian Cup. But how many talents could he be choosing from for the World Cup qualification stage? And what chance for Perrin’s successor?

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com. Contact him at moc.l1516367480iamg@15163674808002g1516367480naiqn1516367480ay1516367480, or on weibo at:http://weibo.com/1646270104/profile?topnav=1&wvr=5

四十二个孩子

我从没见过张海涛,但却在MSN上和他聊过天,算起来,差不多也是十年前的事了。

当时的张海涛,刚刚就任中国女足的主教练,在山东青年队的时候,他是宿茂臻的队长,两人关系不错。宿茂臻其时正在英国攻读职业教练B证,MSN上一天突然叫我加上张海涛,因为张海涛想询问一些欧洲女足的情况。

那段时间我在英国上网,用的是一台没有中文系统的电脑,所以宿茂臻和张海涛跟我聊天,都是英文,多少让我有些诧异。老茂英文很好,后来在萨尔福德大学还读取了一个管理学硕士学位,张海涛的英文,和区楚良一样,是在国内自学的,但是沟通交流没有障碍。

一晃十年,这十年间,零星听到一些张海涛的消息,包括2004年雅典奥运会上女足的惨败、他后来进入国家队教练组以及最近这段时间,担任U16国少队主教练。偶尔和宿茂臻聊天,多少能体会到,他这一拨足球人,在国内执教的艰难,张海涛的经历,恐怕比宿茂臻更难。

U16国少队在亚少赛出局,连负澳大利亚日本,并不算太突兀的中国足球新闻,甚至”选材人数太少”、”经费紧张”等等也不是新闻。冯剑明先生是媒体前辈,在中国足协工作过一段时间,曾经主管国青国少,十年前,他就对当时国青选材,”全国适龄球员不到两百人”,发出过悲叹。十年下来,到张海涛这一届的国少队,适龄选材人数,从1998年生人的注册球员情况看,为二百一十八人,骨龄测试之后,剩下不到七十人。有媒体报道说,张海涛最后能挑选的国少人才,不过四十二人。

这四十二个孩子,集训了一年多,其中从东北延边去到广州集训,经费原因只能长途火车跋涉。伙食和营养水平,似乎也有不达标的状况。这样的一支球队,集训和备战过程,几乎得不到半点关注,铩羽而归,才因为连负澳大利亚和日本,成为了新闻内容。

张海涛上任一年多,薪资好像也没领全。

这些现象摆在面前,全是问题,却都不是绕不过去的问题。偶数年出生的小球员,没有国奥队前景,成长艰辛可以想像。国内的青少年赛事,都是U19、U17、U15和U13这样的年龄组别划分,奥运核心方向从来不变。因为奥运队U23的年龄限制,而在青少年组别,一岁的年龄差别,在体能心智等整体能力上,会有很大差别,所以偶数年出生的足球少年,命运会格外坎坷。

国少队出局,球队没有维系下去的前提,从曼谷回国,便是解散之期。解散之后,这四十二个孩子,将何去何从?

其中有几个能力出挑的,或许能进入到1997年组别的国青队,其余有俱乐部的回俱乐部,有的去云南泸西或山东潍坊参加U17全国联赛。

我很希望有报道中国足球的一线同行,能关注一下这四十二个孩子未来的成长和去向。过往的艰辛不用再提,未来的磨砺,才会更加特殊。他们正处在一个关键年龄,一个迈向职业球员最关键的时期。以人才池基数论,这四十二个孩子,大部分都很难成为真正的职业球员,那么接下来的人生故事会是怎样?

他们或许还有回归校园的机会,只是失去的时间如何补充?他们接受过专业足球训练,哪怕没有职业前景,应该也能围绕足球做一些事,但这些机会是否存在?是否能成为他们未来社会立足的可能?他们在十六岁的时候失败了,但这更应该是一种财富。少年时代的失败,很多时候,会是人生进取的动力。

只是他们能否有这样的机会?