Former Barca defender Abidal greets local fans

Former Barcelona defender and French International Eric Abidal made his first Shanghai trip, during which he shared his views on youth football development.
Ma Yue / SHINE

Eric Abidal (right) poses with former Shanghai Shenhua goalkeeper Wang Dalei during his first trip to Shanghai.

Former Barcelona defender and French International Eric Abidal made his first trip to Shanghai over the weekend.

As the ambassador for La Liga, Abidal interacted with youth footballers at Penglai Road No. 2 Primary School on Saturday morning, and then accompanied hundreds of local fans to watch the television broadcast of the El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, which his former team won 3-0.

“I’m glad to get to feel the Christmas atmosphere during my first trip to Shanghai,” said Abidal. “Despite my limited knowledge about China’s football, I have witnessed good public foundation for the sport here. The fans support not only local teams, but also international clubs. As long as there is a solid public foundation, China’s football will have a promising future.

“China’s young footballers are not much different from their Spanish and French counterparts when it comes to skills and ability. At the beginning, all children play football out of interest. I’m not sure what is the best age for the start of professional training, but those with talent will soon stand out.

“But with talent alone, you can’t reach the peak, that’s why standard training and good coaching are crucial to the development of youth football for European powerhouses,” the Frenchman added.

“People always say that Barcelona owns the best football players in the world,” Abidal said, talking about his former club. “But the more important factor is, the club has the best youth system. Every age group plays a different style of football, which makes them strong when playing as a team. In modern football, individual ability doesn’t solve all problems.”

Ma Yue / SHINE

Abidal interacted with youth footballers at Penglai Road No. 2 Primary School.

Meanwhile, La Liga has announced that it will set its third youth training camp for China in Anhui Province after the current two in Beijing and Shanghai, so as to bring Spanish standard training techniques and managing system to China’s youth football.

It has also authorized Hunan Province-based Mango TV to make a football-themed TV series named “Greenfield of Love,” which will be partly shot in Spanish clubs, starting from next March.

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