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The Rising Sun On China’s Youth Development (28/07/2011)

China coach Ti Liguang – Feature

The Rising Sun On China’s Youth Development

By Eddie dos Passos/HKHA

Come what may this Sunday, Ti Liguang, who coaches China’s Under 21 squad is looking forward to the future and the development it brings to the game of hockey and to his country.

He should well know, having played for the senior national side since the age of 17 and knows what his country would expect to reap from the benefits of a long term development plan and what it brings.
China coach Ti Liguang believes there is a bright future for his country's hockey. Picture by: Eddie dos Passos/HKHA

Hailing from Inner Mongolia, which has a long history associated with the sport from the days of antiquity, the 31-year-old Ti expects no less from his chargers ahead of what is expected to be China’s tournament.

The top 4 teams from this tournament will qualify for the Men's Junior Asia Cup in 2012 where they will play against the likes of South Korea, India and Pakistan.

The winners of that tournament will advance to the Junior World Cup in 2013.

But that is far from the mind of Ti, whose main concern this week is ensuring his team gets through past the finals.

Known for his tactical philosophy, Ti tries to encourage his players to think and play the same way instead of just playing and training.

Having begun his playing career at the age of 14 years, Ti, was chosen to be in the heart of defense, a position he has held that has seen him play at Junior National level and going onto senior national, with China trying to qualify for the 2005 World Cup.

However, China did not qualify but that was not the end his career for Ti who opted to go into coaching and more importantl, the development of the sport in China.

“Hockey is slowly gaining popularity in China. Of course it is not as popular as individual sports but the money and support it is receiving is there,” said Ti, who is going to be a father soon.

“These slow gains have allowed us more players interested in the sport and with more support and funding, we will have more players to choose for the national squads,” he said.
He said with (China-based) teams playing in more than 30 tournaments per year, the quality and quantity for players can only increase the choices for China’s national team selectors.

Using a complex system of tournaments, Ti said selectors believed in the adage of playing under match conditions to choose players from.

China then uses this system to name players for an initial squad of over 100-200 players to find players for youth and senior national squads.

But it is the future Ti is more interested in and believes the future of the sport in China will only see them climb up in the international arena.

Bright Future: Chinese players put to their paces in the 3rd Men's Junior AHF Cup at King's Park. Picture by: Eddie dos Passos/HKHA

As to their 3rd Men’s Junior Asian Hockey Federation Cup chances, Ti was unwilling to make a prediction, citing Pool adversaries Chinese Taipei and Singapore as good contenders for the tournament title.

“Singapore and Chinese Taipei are both good sides, and have a high level, especially Singapore, who has a simple game philosophy and good stick-work to match,” he said.

Which makes him believe that is all good for the game in Asia.

“If more teams can bridge the gap in terms of skill and popularity it can only be good news for the sport,” he said.

But he admitted it was going to be hard work all around as more was needed to develop youth and promote the sport around Asia.

He was confident the future of the sport in China was rosy and promises that more was to come in terms of players and positive results heading their way.

“Once we have more than 10,000 young players in China playing the game of hockey, we can expect more tournaments and that means more players for the game in Asia too,” he said.

As for the Hong Kong organized event, Ti was impressed with the way the sport had been developed here, from the infrastructure to the organization and the facilities and he hopes to see more tournaments hosted here.