After a three-hour drive and walking on a treacherous country road, 69-year-old football veteran Wang Suisheng and his team finally arrived at their destination: Daqing Primary School in Song County, China’s Central Henan Province.
Their arrival stirred excitement among the students, who have never taken football classes before. Under the guidance of players from Henan Huishang Female Football Club, the students began their first football class, learning some basic skills like dribbling, passing and stopping.
Second grader Liu Zongxin used to play football, but he never had a teacher and had never played in a match. “I am so happy that these sisters can teach me how to play,” said Liu, panting.
Located eight kilometers away from the nearest town with only 12 students and one teacher, the Daqing School is the 91th primary school that Wang and his team have visited. The visit is part of a plan to bring football to rural primary schools that Wang started in 2015.
Wang, who has 52 years of experience in football and served two terms as the head coach of the Henan Jianye Football Club, one of the earliest football clubs in China, came up with the idea after he visited a rural primary school and found that there was no football classes at all.
In 2015, Wang founded a non-profit organization called “Football for Rural Students.” Wang started out the program with a simple request: soliciting donations of footballs by his friends.
“I received 2,000 footballs within a week. Many friends wanted to help us,” said Wang.
The organization now not only donates footballs, sports shoes and shirts to rural primary schools, but it also teach students how to play and organize football matches.
In addition, the organization also arranges football training for rural primary school teachers in the hope that they may teach students basic moves and rules.
“Football is very popular around the world. These students should not be left out of the game because they are poor,” said Wang.
Two years after its foundation, “Football for Rural Students” now has more than 20 members, consisting of retired footballers, company bosses, retired teachers, civil servants and media workers.
“They are not paid to do this and they donate everything as long as the students need, like footballs, stationery as well as sports shirts,” said Wang.
Zhang Shuhua, who is a company boss and also a sports lover, has participated several times in the classes given by the organization.
“Every time when I see the students’ happy faces, I feel happy too. I hope these classes can change their lives,” said Zhang.
The organization hopes to bring football classes to 100 rural primary schools in mountainous regions by the end of 2017.
“I believe football should not only be a game for rich people. Given the chance, those rural students can also play very well,” said Liu Xiang, a former player with Henan Jianye Football Club.
“My goal is very simple — bring football to those kids. They need it,” said Wang.