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Danish influence inspiring thousands in China

Chinese football is ready to embrace a substantial breakthrough in the coming years after a couple of Danes spotted the potential of Asian football and set about bringing it up to the standards of the esteemed European leagues.

Brondby Under-19 coach Mads Davidsen (pictured) and ex-Schalke and Danish international striker Ebbe Sand are adamant on making a good impression in the Far East as they have teamed up with the aim to build the best football academy in China, whilst inspiring thousands of youngsters to get involved and potentially unveil the next Asian soccer star.

Ebbe Sand Soccer Academy (ESSA) operates under the company China Elite Training Academy (CETA), where elite tennis players have already been nurtured for several years, so the ESSA will be part of an existing sport business in Shanghai.

Intrigued at this exciting venture, Total Football’s Taylor Williams caught up with Mads Davidsen to speak about what he does, his background and what his and Sand’s plans are for their excursion in the Far East.

What made you and Ebbe Sand want to travel to the Far East to concentrate on football development over there?

First of all, we saw great potential out here. There are 23 million people in Shanghai as we speak. Second of all, we have some unique facilities - the best in Shanghai and maybe the best in China.

Third of all, football is slowly moving forward out here. We see big names like Frederic Kanoute, Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba playing in the Chinese Super League, the attendances are growing at the stadiums and the kids become fans of football and the big stars. So our timing is perfect.

In what age group have your players made the biggest strides, or have you seen improvements throughout?

It is too soon to answer that, but the youngest group is of course the most interesting one, because we have 10 years with these players to develop them and that gives us time to think forward and make the right structure and planning.

What do you believe the reasons are for Chinese players not making it in Europe so regularly?

It simple, I guess. They are not good enough yet. In China, youth football is in schools and not in clubs as we know it from Europe, so the training from ages six to twelve is not good enough.

Furthermore, there are few educated football coaches in China, so the quality is poor.

I have seen some matches from the Chinese Super League as well, and it is mostly centred on the technical parts of the game, where they should be better and that’s good news, because we can do that at Ebbe Sand Soccer Academy.

Technical training is the way we do things in Denmark, so it’s in my DNA.

What would you consider your lasting legacy in China after your work is done over there?

My mission is to explore the football in China and give the young talent the best football education in the country at Ebbe Sand Soccer Academy and in time, we shall produce players for the Chinese Super League and later on in Europe.

The Chinese kids need a role model right now in the football world, and our end goal is to develop players good enough for one of the big clubs in Europe.

You claim to have the best facilities in Shanghai and China. How important is it obtaining these professional venues?

Everyone who works with talent knows facilities are crucial. And we’ve got perfect grass fields taken care of by three guys every day and new artificial grass in place for the winter time, so we can develop players and train all year. You don't see this in China very often.

How did you get into coaching in the first place? Was it a lifelong passion or something you fell into?

Football is my passion. No doubt about that. I get mad when people call football my hobby, because it’s a passion.

A hobby you can choose, but passion is inside you. I always think about football and development every single day.

Working with talents is such a privilege, because their results are my motivation. When a player gets a new contract, is moved to the A-team or is called up for international duty, it is worth everyone’s working hours for a coach.

That’s my motivation, because it’s not a nine to five job. It’s seven days a week for many ours, but I love it!

Have you any previous success stories you would like to share? Perhaps back home in Denmark?

Well, in my first club B.93 Copenhagen I developed some pretty unknown players so that they won a contract and have made a career, and I won 90% of my games with the right team attitude.

We played positive football and took chances in our system, and my goalkeeper was not allowed to kick the ball long, because I want the players to learn how to play from the back four under pressure, and in time, we won anyway.

I won the Danish Under-19 Championship with Brondby IF and helped some players back on the right track in the club and at the youth national team in Denmark.

As mentioned before, it is the players who have done all the work, but it’s my motivation as coach to help others succeed.

What are your future plans? What is next for you after this stint in the Far East?

This is my first contract abroad, so I take one year at a time, work hard every day to develop football in China and make Ebbe Sand Soccer Academy a great success, because the options are here for us.

But I have high ambitions and I want to go as far as possible a coach.

Out here as well it is good for me to try the director’s role in football together with the coaching role, because then I can become a complete coach and leader.

But in football, making plans is difficult, so I just work hard, live healthy and make sure I develop as a coach and a human being all the time.

And right now Shanghai and Chinese football is a big challenge for me, and I am enjoying myself out here.

By Taylor Williams - Follow me on Twitter @Taylor_Will1989 - Visit my blog -

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