Shanghai football club invest millions to boost youth squad

World Today

Football stars like Hulk, Oscar, Elkeson have helped power Shanghai SIPG F.C. to the last 16 of the Asian Champions league and near the top of the Chinese league this season.

But at this under 16s training session, it is the potential Chinese stars of the future who are hitting the back of the net.

CGTN’s Nathan King reports.

Shanghai football club invest millions to boost youth squad

Football stars like Hulk, Oscar, Elkeson have helped power Shanghai SIPG F.C. to the last 16 of the Asian Champions league and near the top of the Chinese league this season. But at this under 16s training session, it is the potential Chinese stars of the future who are hitting the back of the net.

This club and many others are pouring millions of dollars into their youth training. This year SIPG will spend $17 million on youth development — on kids like Ninhghao Ren who now thinks he can make a career out of his passion.

“Of course it’s possible. Chinese football is improving in their performance and also in youth training. The country has an emphasis on youth training. In terms of our club, I think they provide us a good platform and also give us a lot of possibilities to achieve more,” Ninhghao said.

These young players also have the backing of their parents which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. These kids would have been focusing hard on passing the Gaokao — not to each other. Sport would likely have come second to getting a good job in finance or engineering- but times have changed.

“Different parents have different mindsets. Everyone has their own future. Some people want to be scientists; some people want to play sports. The whole nation would be healthier if we focus more on sports. My son chose football as his career and he likes football, he has a passion for it,” Xianhuang Ren, father of Ninghao said.

And SIPG are going global when it comes to training this next generation. Whoever makes it onto the Under 17 squad could spend a year training in one of Football’s most famous nations- Brazil.

“Yes this year, we are cooperating with a club in Brazil. Our U17 team, including coaches, more than 30 people went there. We play in their Leagues. It’s a one-year long studying abroad,” Coach of SIPG F.C. Lei Wu said.

And it’s not just the kids, they are training their coaches too. They think investment at this level will pay off not just for their team but for the Chinese national team as well.

What most players want more than anything is- one day to play for the Chinese national team, perhaps in a world cup squad.

“Of course it’s my dream since I was young. I believe every player wants to play for national team. It is my dream,” Ninghao said.

China last qualified for the World Cup finals in 2002 – but perhaps this generation with their parents, their coaches and the country behind them, will find football glory.