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From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors Vol. 80: AMANO Keisuke, Head Coach of Chengdu Football Association Academy U-15/U-16

28 July 2023

From Pitches in Asia – Report from JFA Coaches/Instructors Vol. 80: AMANO Keisuke, Head Coach of Chengdu Football Association Academy U-15/U-16

Entering the third year at Chengdu FA

This is my third year in China since I was dispatched to Chengdu in May 2021.

This year, I am overseeing the Chengdu Football Association (Chengdu FA) Academy U-15 team as head coach and as with last year, I am also in charge of the various coach education activities carried out by the Technical Committee.

The Japan National Team’s success at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, the youth national teams’ achievements in Asia, and the activities of the youth and junior age groups in Japan have all garnered significant attention in China, where the differences between Chinese and Japanese football are frequently discussed.

Due to the size of the country and its population of over 1.4 billion, regional disparities in terms of lifestyle, customs, and culture are very significant in China. However, in terms of football coaching, it appears that in most areas across the county, many coaches tend to limit the players' independence and place far too many restrictions on how players should play. There also seems to be many players and teams that are extremely unadaptable in real match situations.

In order to address this issue in China’s youth development system, I have been conducting lectures at coach education courses entitled “Training theories from a problem-solving perspective” to give coaches a chance to look at preconceived notions from a different perspective and to encourage independent thinking.

Youth development in China

I had the opportunity to participate in a U-13 Elite selection camp hosted by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) in May of this year. Around 70 players selected from various regions of both northern and southern China took part in the selection camp.

Having the chance to interact with many highly skilled players was a valuable experience for me.

This selection process also helped me realise that Chinese players tend to be less aware of the priority of play, both on and off the ball, than Japanese players of the same age, which results in a loss of continuity in their plays.

Along with Spanish and Dutch coaches working for the CFA, the elite camp featured former China PR National Team coaches from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s as part of the selection staff. During the discussion, the participants exchanged views on how Japanese football has evolved in relation to its vision, as well as on the challenges faced by Chinese youth players, the educational environment of the players, the year-round league environment, coach education, and training philosophies.

Learning from my experience in China and the challenge to evolve further

I am currently in my third year living in China, and I am constantly being reminded of the importance of adaptability. In order to do this, I believe it is critical to have a mindset that values diversity, an objective point of view, and the capacity to articulate one's own opinions.

When I lived in Japan, I was used to a disciplined, chaos-free environment, where problems could be avoided in advance. Such an environment has many positive aspects as it helps you solve problems efficiently and smoothly. However, it also limits the opportunity to learn how to assess the nature of a problem or unexpected incident and respond to it in a flexible manner based on one’s own judgement.

This, in my opinion, also holds true for youth development. To develop outstanding players and teams that can compete at the top level, demands a high degree of problem-solving ability at the individual level. Therefore, it is critical to improve the means by which each player can accomplish his or her objectives.

By taking inspiration from players and coaches from both China and Japan, I will continue to strive and assist the further development of football in Chengdu.

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