Barcelona star Pedri offers advice to young Chinese soccer fans
Published: Mar 04, 2024 12:30 AM
FC Barcelona star Pedri speaks during the interview. Photo: Courtesy of FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona star Pedri speaks during the interview. Photo: Courtesy of FC Barcelona


To Chinese kids who love to play soccer, Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona midfielder Pedri told the Global Times during an online interview on Friday night that his biggest suggestion would be to enjoy soccer to the fullest.

"When you play soccer with your friends, don't worry about the results, don't worry about your skills, and whether you'll become a professional player in the future. All you need to do is to enjoy the happiness it brings," said the 22-year-old silky player who was seen as the heir to Barcelona's legend Andres Iniesta.

Among the children born between 2000 and 2014, there were only around 5,000 primary and middle school students playing soccer regularly across China, according to Zhang Lu, deputy director of the strategic planning committee of China's soccer governing body Chinese Football Association (CFA).

In contrast, soccer powerhouses such as Germany, Brazil, and France all have more than a million young soccer players in the same age group, as Zhang stated in 2022.

When talking about his impression of Chinese soccer, Pedri said that China's domestic league is still growing, with many excellent players.

"I am confident that in the coming years, they will continue to improve and become even better," Pedri said.

The 2024 season of the Chinese Super League (CSL) kicked off on Friday featuring a total of 16 clubs amid increasing scrutiny on the governing body, which is mired in an anti-graft crackdown with its former officials under investigation.

Last season, the CSL boasted an average attendance of 19,900 spectators per match, with a total of 1.12 billion live viewers, all of which ranked as the highest in Asia.

Young players at Pedri's age often struggle to acquire playing time in the Chinese league, as either foreign players are preferred, or the quality of the youngsters fails to live up to expectations.

Since joining the Spanish giant in 2019, Pedri has amassed over 100 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona, becoming the second youngest player in the club's history to reach 100 appearances in 2023.

In 2021, Pedri won the Golden Boy award presented by Tuttosport for being the best player in European soccer under the age of 21.

"For young players, it's normal not to get many opportunities to play in the league. What they can do is to continue training hard to reach a higher level, and eventually, opportunities will come for those prepared," Pedri said in giving his advice to Chinese young players.

With Barcelona sitting in third place in the Spanish LaLiga standings and striving to reach the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, the midfielder said they will do their best to compete for both championships in the remaining time of the season.

"I think we still have a chance to compete for both titles in these two competitions. Relatively speaking, the league is more difficult, but it's also longer with more matches, so anything is possible," he said.

Speaking of Xavi Hernandez, who would step down as the coach of the club at the end of the season, Pedri said that he learned a lot from the Barca legend.

"Whether as a coach or a legendary player of the club, Xavi is an idol and a role model for all of us. During his coaching tenure, our team has improved significantly. Last year, we won the league championship together, and in the remaining time of this season, we will also strive to do our best," he noted.

"Additionally, as a legend who played in the same midfield position as me, Xavi has given me many suggestions in orchestrating attacks," Pedri said.