Shaolin Soccer in Real Life

While many people practise Kung Fu for body building, a school has been launched in central China with the purpose of helping Chinese soccer development with the ancient martial art.

The soccer school, being constructed in Dengfeng City of Henan Province, is located only miles away from the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Kung Fu. It is expected to recruit more than 10,000 students opon completion in three years.

However, a monk from the Shaolin Temple said on condition of anonymity that the temple was not part of the project and no disciples were involved.

The “Shaolin Jianye International Football School” was launched earlier this year.

It was founded by the Ruling Circle of Song Shan Temple Monks Training Base Mission Education (Group), a local institution founded in 1997 that focuses on martial arts teaching, and Henan Jianye Football Club, a former A-list team in China, which was relegated in 2012.

The two sides will invest 2 billion yuan (324 million U.S. dollars) in the school, which covers an area of 55.7 hectares. A stadium and two gyms will also be built.

Shi Yanlu, founder of the school and a former disciple of the current abbot of the Shaolin Temple Shi Yongxin, told Xinhua on Friday that the football school aims to integrate the spirits and skills of Kung Fu into sports.

"The grasp of attack and defense in Chinese Kung Fu will benefit football training," said Shi.

Although soccer fans still have to wait three years for the construction to be completed, 500 football players have already been chosen out of 15,000 teenagers from the group’s martial arts school. They have already been through high intensity training since 2010, said Shi.

Football training, martial arts practice and general knowledge courses occupy one third of the player’s time respectively, said Shi.

He said the players had no match experience and had no plans to join professional football teams at present.

"For now their priority is to build a firm foundation of their skills," said Shi. "We don’t want them to achieve quick success. We want to do something tangible for Chinese martial arts and football."

He added, “As long as we have good players with high potential, they will be discovered even in ‘deep forests’.”

Wang Zhongren, Henan Jianye Football Club spokesman, told Xinhua on Saturday that the major purpose of the school is to popularize sports.

Teenage players who perform well and have potential are likely to join the reserve team of the club, said Wang.

The reason that Chinese Kung Fu is gaining popularity at home and even around the world is that so many people love it, said Shi Yanlu, expressing the hope that Chinese football can also become as attractive as Kung Fu.