On behalf of the European Union, UEFA has extended the hand of football friendship to China through a coach education initiative which has brought 40 Chinese elite youth coaches to the House of European Football in Nyon.
At the opening ceremony to mark the start of the Chinese coaches' visit, speakers emphasised the invaluable purpose of this sporting exchange which is taking place under the auspices of the 2011 EU–China Year of Youth. In cooperation with the European Commission, UEFA is hosting the event from Thursday until 13 October at the Colovray Sports Centre opposite UEFA's Swiss HQ. European football experts will participate as speakers and the Swiss Football Association (SFV-ASF) has organised elite youth matches within the course schedule.
UEFA President Michel Platini expressed UEFA's delight at receiving the Chinese coaches. "We will be very happy if you can learn something from European football about how to teach children to play football. China is such a large country with so many children, and you as coaches are the most important people to teach youngsters. If there are no coaches, it is difficult to teach our children how to play. We hope we can help you."
"A key aim of the EU–China Year of Youth is to promote exchange and mutual learning in different fields of interest for young people. From playgrounds to professional fields, football can be an effective tool to spread intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding among young people. I welcome this outstanding initiative by UEFA to further these objectives by enhancing the educational role of sport," said the European Commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, Androulla Vassiliou, in a welcome message.
The coaches' delegation from China comprises national youth team coaches, the head coaches of a variety of elite sides from Under-12 to U19 level, as well as women's youth team coaches. The course programme features presentations from experts and national associations on, among other things, the development of young players and the work of youth academies in European countries, plus practical sessions involving young players and visits to youth matches specially arranged for the course.
"We have strong relations between the EU and China, and these relations have become stronger and stronger," said Thomas Naecke, head of the political section of the European Commission delegation to Switzerland, representing Mrs Vassiliou and an experienced expert on Asian and Chinese affairs.
"What is important for good contact between Europe and China is that societies know each other, people know each other and that we understand each other," he added. "Sport is important, the young generation is important. We are very grateful to UEFA for organising this football coach programme, which is one of the many initiatives that have been organised between Europe and China in the course of the year."
Li Xue, vice-president of the Chinese Football Association, said: "This is a milestone for European and Chinese football. Europe is a pioneer of world football and its influence is also felt in China as millions of Chinese football fans are also fans of European football. For Chinese football development, we need the knowledge to organise football – this is a very good opportunity for us to come here and learn."
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