Shaolin Soccer

It is usual for real life events to be turned into movies. But seeing movie plots taking place in real life is a lot less common. If you missed ‘Shaolin Soccer’, the 2001 Hong Kong comedy action movie, you will be forgiven. Despite favourable ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, it was not exactly a commercial success.

The plot was a simple one. In Shaolin Soccer, a young Shaolin follower reunites with his former brothers to form a soccer team. Then they take advantage of their martial art skills in the football matches. The cast included a number of prominent Hong Kong actors led by Stephen Chow, who was also a writer. But nevertheless, the film should have been rebroadcasting on obscure cable channels a long time ago.

Shaolin Soccer
Stephen Chow
By Kit Liew (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kitliew/3675744396/) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School

But it seems that someone in China still has a lingering memory of it. Because a report on the state-run People’s Daily Online [in Chinese] says that the legendary Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School has opened a soccer academy. It was built after the surge in popularity of kung fu around the time that Jet Li’s debut 1982 film Shaolin Temple was released.

The school currently has around 35,000 pupils. It is located in Dengfeng city, Henan Province, in the east of China, close to the site of the original Shaolin Monastery. The new academy will choose a select group of just 100. The pupils aged between 10 and 12 will join it. There will be an even split between boys and girls and three specialist soccer coaches working with the new students.

They will combine their study of Shaolin kung-fu with football training. The skills they are learning through their kung-fu training, including stamina, flexibility, balance, meditation and combat skills, can be successfully transferred into the world of soccer.

One of the new coaches, Sun Dawei, told the Shanghai Daily “What we want to do is combining Shaolin martial arts with football and creating an original concept. With a foundation in wushu, their bodily flexibility, and force is a great help when they are playing football.”

Shaolin Soccer
Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School
Photo Source: http://shaolintagou.org
Shaolin Soccer
Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School
Photo Source: http://shaolintagou.org

China Hoping to Win Soccer World Cup

Soccer is a big deal in China right now. President Xi Jinping is a big fan of the sport. He sees it as a way for China to establish itself as a sporting powerhouse. His ambition is to see China win the world cup by 2050, but history is not on his side.

The Chinese national team has only managed to qualify for the World Cup on one occasion. Back in 2002, on that occasion, they crashed out in the opening group stage having failed to score a goal. They are currently ranked 82nd in the FIFA World Rankings, behind St Kitts & Nevis and the Cape Verde Islands.

In recent years, people have thrown big money at the Chinese Super League  in the hope to seeing success. But with spending much money on foreign stars, success is yet to rub off on emerging Chinese players. These failings have seen plenty of innovative new training methods being tried out. It seems Shaolin Soccer is worth a try too. Certainly, hopes are high, with ambitious targets being set for the students participating.

shaolin Soccer
Italy vs. Paraguay
warrenski, Flickr CC License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/warrenski/4714013661/

Shaolin Kung Fu

The school is saying that they are expecting to see significant improvements in three years, success in five years, and to be an established soccer school within eight years.

Local government officials are also enthusiastic. Zhang Wenshen of the Henan Province government sports bureau told the Hong Kong-based newspaper, the South China Morning Post, “The province attempt to bring Shaolin KungFu into soccer to deepen football reform and promote the Chinese martial art.”

It has certainly drawn international attention. Most football-related stories do, which is part of the reason China is so keen to make its mark. Of course, they still have to see if the pupils taking part in the academy can reach the heights scaled by the characters in the Shaolin Soccer movie. In the film, the Shaolin players are diving through the air and making incredible acrobatic overhead kicks, and other moves.

As 12-year old student Sun Linyuan admitted to the Shanghai Daily, “The flying and those sort of awesome things, I can’t do. In the future, I will be able to do spinning kicks and bicycle kicks. Then I’ll be a better footballer.”

Only time will tell if Sun, or any of his fellow pupils, really can use their Shaolin kung-fu abilities to help propel China to the pinnacle of the soccer world.

shaolin Soccer
In the picture they are the two grandmasters of the Shaolin Temple Shi DeRu (Shawn Xiangyang Liu) and Shi DeYang (Shi WanFeng) who are two decedent disciples of the late Great Grand Master of the Shaolin Temple Shi SuXi (aka: His Holiness Upper Su and Lower Xi).
By Shi Deru (a.k.a. Shawn Xiangyang Liu) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Shaolin Soccer | Official Trailer

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