Nineteen-year-old Chinese goalkeeper signed to Bayern Munich says he is learning from the best
Aspire to greatness
Published: Mar 07, 2023 09:19 PM
Editor's Note:

Young Chinese people in the new era are confident, aspirational and responsible. With a global vision, they stand at the forefront of the times, ready to fully commit to a more global outlook. Chinese people accept and quickly respond to the world's trending schools of thought. Some members of China's Generation Z have started to practice the tenets of their "global citizen" identity and use their thought processes and actions to influence the society. The Global Times has therefore launched a series of introductory stories to China's Gen Zers who are interested in different global topics such as environmental protection, equality, and employment issues, and invites them to share their stories, sentiments, and ideas on social media platforms.

Liu Shaoziyang (right) trains at FC Bayern Munich on January 14, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Liu Shaoziyang (right) trains at FC Bayern Munich on January 14, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Liu Shaoziyang had just turned 18 when he got signed by FC Bayern Munich in December 2021, capturing the attention of both Chinese and German soccer fans.

One year and a half later, the young goalkeeper has curved his own path under the youth training system of the Bundesliga Giants, one of the most renowned and dynamic systems in the world.

After signing a three-and-a-half-year contract with Bayern Munich, Liu was loaned to SK Austria Klagenfurt to gain experience, after which he was loaned to Grazer AK of Austria in February. 

In an interview with the Global Times, the young talent shared his experiences and feelings about growing up to become a professional soccer player and being a part of overseas clubs.

He said that the leadership and creativity of Bayern and Germany's captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer are what he admires, and aims to emulate. 

He also understands that even if he has started from a relatively advanced position at present, the road ahead is long and bumpy, especially for a goalkeeper, and he must steadily move forward, making progress toward his goal with practical and solid efforts.

A rising star

Born at the end of 2003, Liu had a dream of playing soccer, and his talent and hard work were supported and recognized by his coach and family who are believed to have foresight. 

As a child, Liu lived in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province with his parents. When he was in elementary school, Liu studied at the Hankou Furen Primary School, which is a soccer-themed school in the city and the place where his soccer dreams fully took root. 

A good horse needs to have a good saddle. In the eyes of his visionary coach, Liu had great potential to become a good goalkeeper - not only did he possess a height advantage, now 1.91 meters, but he was also fearless in his position. While in training, he never avoided or retreated from incoming soccer balls no matter how aggressively they came hurtling at him. 

At the time, before the daily school soccer team training would start, the coach would spend half an hour with the young talent, drilling goalkeeping techniques and hand shapes that went along with them. 

In one game, Liu gave an outstanding performance, making several brilliant saves that helped the team withstand the opposing team's attacks. After that brilliant performance, Liu began to receive formal and comprehensive goalkeeper training.

His mother also began to collect goalkeeper training videos from various sources to help her son improve his professional skills.

In 2016, Liu joined a youth training program by the Wuhan Three Towns Football Club and was then sent to Spain for further training and study.

In March 2021, Bayern Munich and Wuhan Three Towns reached a comprehensive cooperation agreement aimed at jointly cultivating soccer talent through theory and practice. After several rounds of trials, Liu entered the FC Bayern Academy and began his new professional journey.

On December 16, 2021, Liu's talent and hard work paid off when FC Bayern Munich officially announced Liu's joining the club.

Liu is grateful for what he has today as a young player born after the millennium.

"We can gain more experience from our predecessors, but compared with them, I think our generation are under more scientific, systematic, and comprehensive training methods since the sport is progressing every day," Liu noted. He said that experience is also important and he appreciates that he can learn from and talk about experience with veterans.

Liu Shaoziyang in FC Bayern Munich in December 2021 Photo: Courtesy of FC Bayern Munich

Liu Shaoziyang in FC Bayern Munich in December 2021 Photo: Courtesy of FC Bayern Munich

Learning from the best

Bayern Munich has a tradition of having the world's greatest goalkeepers on its roster including Sepp Maier, Oliver Kahn, and current German captain Manuel Neuer, who is considered to be one of the best active goalkeepers in the world.

"The most important quality that I admire about and need to learn from Manuel Neuer is his leadership both on the field and in training, as well as his improvisation and judgment on the field," Liu told the Global Times, adding that he studied Neuer's spirit by watching games and training sessions.

According to Liu, Neuer is like a "king on the field" who can completely dominate the game and handle the situation perfectly.

"His ability to control the game is unparalleled," Liu said.

Liu is the first Chinese male goalkeeper to ever be signed by a European football club. Liu's performance and growth have left a great impression on Bayern Munich, Matthias Brosamer, Bayern Munich's head of sports Asia, told the Global Times in a previous interview.

When talking about his training and life at Bayern, Liu summarized it as "fruitful and colorful." 

He elaborated that Bayern provided targeted training and teaching plans for each player according to their individual characteristics. As a goalkeeper, in addition to technical and tactical training, he also receives comprehensive coaching courses such as strength, physical fitness and yoga.

In terms of adapting to the training life in a foreign country, Liu said he thinks that first and foremost, one must pay attention to the language. 

"If you want to integrate into a group and a new environment, it is difficult for you to talk with them, learn from them, and live with the people around you without communicating in their language," Liu said.

According to Liu, he spent an entire year learning German in his spare time, three hours a day from Monday to Friday. Despite some difficulties in the beginning, he learned quickly in the language environment and can now communicate fluently with his teammates in German.