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Soccer training giving girls new goals

(Xinhua)    14:18, June 03, 2016
Soccer training giving girls new goals
Sixth grader Ran Yufeng shows off her soccer skills in an alley behind her home in southwest China’s Chongqing. She is a member the girls’ football team at Sanhe Township Elementary School. Her trainer says she’s got talent and her dream is to be on the national team in the future. For girls in the school team, football is not just a sport, but may also help them to secure better educational opportunities.— Xinhua

EVERY morning, 12-year-old Ma Shitong carefully cleans a pair of sneakers before setting off for school.

“I have only one pair and I just wear them for soccer training. I would never wear them during the day, because wear and tear will break the fabric,” said Ma, one of 56 girls who play football at the Sanhe Township Elementary School in Chongqing.

Ma’s parents work in factories in east China’s Zhejiang Province, about 1,500 kilometers away. Ma and her grandmother don’t have the money to buy another pair of sneakers.

This summer is crucial time for Ma. Her friend Li Chunju has been offered a place at a junior high school in downtown Chongqing, and Ma wants the same. “I have to train hard and improve myself before I can go to a better school,” she said.

Another classmate, Ran Yufeng, says: “My trainer said I’ve got talent. I want to be on the national team when I grow up.”

The school established a girls’ team in 2012. Girls from the mountains are healthy and active, said school principal Sun Xiaoming, so a suitable sports program was called for.

“The village girls may be smaller and thinner than their urban peers, but they have better stamina and train harder. Our team has developed fast in the last three years, and now some of our girls are the best players in Chongqing,” he said.

Eight girls have received offers from good schools including the high school affiliated to the Southwest University, he said.

In a citywide tournament last year, Ma’s school beat Datianwan Elementary School, which is a soccer academy. And in a friendly earlier this week, the teams tied 0-0.

“The girls from Sanhe are pretty tough and hard to beat. The urban children will learn hard-working spirit from their opponents,” said Gao Changhai, Datianwan’s coach.

Usually it is hard for rural children to gain a place at an urban school, said Sun.

“Most of the rural girls, upon finishing junior education or senior high school, just get married or find a job. Football has given them an opportunity to expand their horizons — they can study in the city, go to college and even become professional players,” he said.

“Even if these girls do not become professional players, their lives will be different thanks to football,” Sun said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Huang Jin,Bianji)

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