From Beijing, to Inner Mongolia and now in Sichuan: it’s three years that Céderique Tulleners, a Belgian football coach has arrived in China. Before he was the coach of Dayu FC, a youth team in Hohhot that participate in the U19 League, and recently he moved to the professional club, Sichuan Jiuniu (China League Two) as assistant coach and match analyst. We interviewed Céderique to talk about his experience, the development of football in different areas of China, the youth league system and also about match analysis

How long have you been here in China as a football coach?

I arrived here in October 2015, almost three years. I arrived in Beijing and began to work in a grassroots academy for 10 months. After I finished my contract, I signed a contract with Dayu. Dayu is a professional academy in Beijing and they have a cooperation with a club in Inner Mongolia. We played the Chinese Football Association U19 League under the name of Mongolian Club. I travelled a lot in Hohhot to help the academy, and then I was the coach for nearly two years for U18 and U19 team.

Can you explain me better the Dayu FC project and if there is a link with Belgian football?

It is a professional academy without a first team. There is no real link with Belgium, the GM is a Belgian man with Chinese roots. He lived in Belgium and was active in Belgian football. But he does not only work with Belgian coaches, there were even coaches from UK and Czech Republic. By the way, now the cooperation with the Inner Mongolian Club has ended and there are other projects in other cities.

Dayu FC-Inner Mongolia

What can you tell me about the development of youth League? Before the interview you told me about some very weak teams as the one of Heilongjiang who lost every matches and scored no goal.

This is a big issue. There are three teams in the U19 league who participate in the championship, but they should not be there because of their level. The case of Heilongjiang is simply a school team who participate under the name of the club. But I think that the general level is decent. We play in the second league and in the first league the level is even higher. In League Two every team has a couple of good players, but there is a big difference between these players and the rest of the team. In League One is more equal.

Always before the interview, you told me that Yanbian U19 had three foreign footballers, but they can’t play. Russia 2018 was the World Cup of the globalization: Morocco has 17 players who were born overseas and also the case of France was so discussed. China doesn’t allow any foreign footballers to play in youth leagues: do you think that this may affect the development or is the right way?

Exactly, Yanbian has three foreign players but they told us that they can only train. As they have a foreign passport, they can’t play official matches. Apparently one of them signed a contract with the first team At youth level, foreigners with Chinese roots should be able to participate. But in my opinion allowing any foreigner would not be good for the local players Some clubs might spend money to take good players from overseas and this will affect the development of local players.

You worked for two years in Inner Mongolia, what can you tell me about the development of football in that province?

I was not involved in football at grassroots level, but I know one grassroots academy. When I arrived the grassroots academy had only two coaches and when I left they had over 10. It means that the project is working, and also the government of Inner Mongolia is investing a lot of money. They are building many facilities and there is a lot of money available.

Teach football to Chinese kids is different because they develop different cognitive skills and sometimes they didn’t receive a good football education. What was your approach, had you to change some training system parameter to adapt the situation?

What I noticed is that the understanding of the football is not good. They like to watch football, play football, but they have some difficulties to understand it. When I arrived my players never tried the area marking, something that in Europe is very normal. Also the organization on the field is very difficult for them. In the beginning, I tried basic tasks and rules to understand what they need to do when their mate is in some positions on the field: “if this happen, this players need to do this”. Always small things but every time more and more. This way, they could improve their understanding. Another difference is that Chinese players have a difficult approach to the transition. If they lose the ball, or they get the ball they don’t see immediately the spaces to attack. Another difference is that Chinese players are late developers: Good Europeans will be ready to play and train with the first team around the age of 18. While in China it is more common around 20 years old.

Warmup with Sichuan Jiuniu in China League Two

Now you are at Sichuan Jiuniu Football Club, in thrid division. You are the match analyst of the team. Is this something new for Chinese player the MA?

I don’t know for other clubs, but for Jiuniu’s players it was the first time they tried something like this. Before they used to watch 90 minutes of the game of the opponents. Now, we organize meetings with the players, show them some videos about the game. The coach tells me what he wants to see of our previous game, positive and negative things, then we receive the opponent’s video and I work on it to show our players in detail how our opponents play. Not so much longs videos, and not too many information, but very specific. One day before the game we have another meeting, where we show videos about how we want to play and how we can get advantages on our opponent.

The team moved from Zigong to Chengdu. What about the environment and supporters?

We recently moved to LongQuanYi Stadium, is one of the few football stadiums without a track field around it, so it is used only for football like in Europe. This is nice, and fans are very close to us, they are very active. It’s a good environment to play football. In the first game there were more then 8.000 supporters, but it is not always like this in League Two. For example when we played in Shanghai there were only 100 supporters for the local team.

China League Two doesn’t allow signing foreign players. Do you think that one or two foreign players can improve the quality of the league and also Chinese players?

Allowing foreigners will be an improvement to the level of the league. It will make the league more attractive but this also mean Chinese players will play less. The main thing to improve the level of players is by playing matches and making good trainingIf we allow foreigners to the league it will make the league more attractive but this also mean Chinese players will play less. It’s better on the long term to not add (too many) foreigners to the league

What about this season?

We are in the middle of the table now as a neopromoted club, we are very happy about this result, but we hope to get more points in the next games as the club is quite ambitious and we want to reach the top 4. Till now we have been working good, we also reached the quarter finals of the Chinese FA Cup, but now is time to get more points in the league.