RowanRowan Simons by Fantake via Flickr

The first signs of grass root soccer in China are only emerging, says soccer expert Rowan Simons in a Time-article on a soccer club in Huilongguang, Beijing.. Time:

Unlike many nations, where pickup games are played in town squares and neighborhood streets, football has never had a wide popular following in China. “Huilongguan Super League is still building the first stage of grassroots football, while in England, grassroots football is the base of the whole football pyramid,” says Rowan Simons, a U.K. citizen who runs China’s only legally registered amateur football club in China with about 3,500 members. According to FIFA‘s 2006 “big count,” a survey of all its member associations, there were only 382,762 junior players in China. In England, there are 820,000. “Football talent is not manufactured in sports schools. The English Football Association spends over 50% of its resources on grassroots football development,” says Rowan. “If participation among kids [in China] could be raised to the level in England, I guarantee you that among the extra 25 million young players, there are 11 who could develop into World Cup stars.”

Rowan Simons is hoping for a change of China’s sporting policies:

That kind of reform can happen quickly if the central leadership changes their approach to football and returns it “to the people,” says Rowan. “There are senior leaders now asking why Chinese football is in perpetual crisis, and they are looking for solutions. But even if the authorities don’t take active steps to encourage private and community-owned networks, it will still happen. It’s the people’s game.”

Rowan Simons is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. If you are interested in having him as a speaker, do let us know.

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