Xinjiang’s youth football aspirations on the rise

December 23, 2023
Updated 2023/12/23 at 7:35 AM
6 Min Read

Artux City is known as the “hometown of football for a century,” and the local Eksak Elementary School in Eksak village used to be a poverty-stricken village but successfully lifted itself out of poverty in 2019. Football can be seen everywhere in the village, from football-themed decorations on streetlights and murals on courtyard walls to slogans like “Ignite the soul of football on the greenfield” at the local village entrance. Football is undoubtedly the pride of this village, and the school promptly provides a platform for children who aspire to excel in football.

On December 13, a fierce football match took place at Eksak Elementary School. The match featured two boys’ football teams from Eksak Elementary School and another local school.

Despite the freezing cold wind of southern Xinjiang in winter, children eagerly watched the game from the sidelines, loudly cheering “Eksak! Go!” Whenever a goal was scored, the children erupted in cheers.

The Eksak Elementary School football team had a slight advantage that day, scoring several goals in a short period of time.

The team captain, Ahsan, 12, played a crucial role in the first half with three assists and one goal. This Uygur football prodigy, who idolizes the Argentine superstar Lionel Messi and dreams of becoming a professional athlete, said his ultimate goal in life is to play for the national team and play in the World Cup.

The team’s forward, 11-year-old Bilaly Andukrem, is a player who scored three goals on his own, making him the core figure of the team. He dreams of growing up to become a football star like Brazilian former footballer Kaka. Recently, he and a dozen of his teammates represented the local Qiah Club in a club competition in Kashi Prefecture, winning the championship.

Bilaly’s younger brother, Jomar, 10, is also a skilled football player who plays as a midfielder. Although he didn’t play in the match, his juggling skills on the sidelines attracted many onlookers. He juggled the balls 240 times without stopping.

The football team’s coach, Yushanjan Amati, is also a local football talent. He came to teach at this elementary school after graduating from Xinjiang Normal University with a major in physical education. Then, he realized his dreams when he became a coach. He believes that all his students are excellent players. Their enthusiasm inspires him, and he hopes they can have a bright future in football. Some of his students have left the area to continue their education in schools in big cities because of their passion for football.

Akramjan Abdurahm, the principal of the Eksak Elementary School, said the school has 603 students. After years of effort, the school has developed a distinctive educational approach focused on high-quality teaching in football. The school currently has three football teams, two boys’ teams with over 50 players, and one girls’ team with over 20 players. The school has not only produced professional football players but also instilled resilience and the spirit of teamwork in the children through football.

In recent years, Xinjiang’s youth football training system has begun to take shape, promoting the establishment of football-themed kindergartens, campus football schools, pilot counties and districts for campus football, and football training camp bases. With the popularization of campus football, football facilities are gradually improving, and more and more students are participating in football activities.

At the same time, with the assistance of paired assistance programs, various regions in Xinjiang are increasing their efforts in football-related infrastructure construction and youth training, building a smoother bridge for the cultivation and development of football talents, the Global Times learnt.

Recently, the 2023 “Artux Cup” Xinjiang football invitational tournament concluded in the city. “Artux has the most passionate fans in the whole country,” Memetjan, a renowned referee from the Chinese Super League, who watched the game on-site, was quoted by on December 9.

In recent years, Artux City has relied on its strong football atmosphere and a solid fan base to vigorously promote the development of football, driving urban development and achieving remarkable results. The “Artux Cup” has not only promoted the exhibition and sale of agricultural and sideline products of Artux characteristics, but also created more employment opportunities.

The city will continue to deepen the development of football and invest more resources in youth football training. At the same time, it will continue to hold high-level events and activities to attract more attention across the country, local officials told the Global Times.

From Artux, the younger generation dream bigger and further with their football enthusiasm.

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