China boost national team performance staff with Van Puyvelde and Zhao

September 28 – The Chinese Football Association (CFA) are looking to Belgium’s Chris Van Puyvelde to help rejuvenate their international ambitions. The technical director of the Belgian Football Association (KBVB) has signed a four-year deal with the CFA joining former players Zhao Junzhe (pictured), Yang Che and Shao Jiayi among others in a bid to professionalise operations.

Van Puyvelde was one of the masterminds behind Belgium’s won bronze medal at Russia 2018 where the country played some of the finest football of the finals eliminating Brazil in the quarter-finals, but losing to France in the last four. Van Puyvelde became the KBVB’s technical director in 2015. He had been a coach and assistant coach at Sporting Lokeren, Club Brugge, Olympiakos, AA Gent and SC Heerenveen among others. 

Van Puyvelde was key in signing Roberto Martinez as Belgium’s coach following Marc Wilmots’ exit after a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign. Belgian coaches have been in demand in Asia with Jan Van Winckel and Eric Abrams enjoying stints as technical directors with Saudi Arabia and Australia respectively. In Singapore Michel Sablon is working in the same role.

China last qualified for the World Cup in 2002 when Japan and South Korea co-hosted the tournament, but were eliminated in the first round without registering a point or a goal.

“I have been able to develop enormously here over the past there years and together with the team we have realised great things,” Van Puyvelde told Belgian media Sporza. “There was not only the professional framework around the national teams, with a healthy mix of motivated ex-pros and dedicated trainers, we also worked on the development of all sections within our association and on the further expansion of the Belgian Football Centre in Tubize, which enjoys international fame in the meantime.”

Zhao Junzhe has been appointed the director of management and training of the national team. He was a former captain for China. His former teammates Yang Chen and Shao Jiayi, both of whom played at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and in European leagues, will be charged with training operations. Peng Weiguo will lead the local youth development. 

“As the first former national player for this job, I could feel the pressure. On the other hand, I was captain of the (Chinese) national team for six years and captain of Liaoning for 16 years and I also worked as a manager. All these experiences will help me better understand the players and managers and communicate more effectively with the clubs,” said Zhao to Xinhua.

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