ZHENGZHOU, China, July 13 (Xinhua) -- 2,459 young players under the age of 18 are playing in a five-a-side football tournament although the temperature is over 37 degrees centigrade in central China's Zhengzhou city, capital of Henan Province.
Ten matches were held at the same time in a middle school in Zhengzhou city at 3pm on Tuesday, and these youngsters played in sweat and their parents cheered for them.
Zhao Zihao, an 8-year-old student in Xiyue football club, was drenched in sweat after the 40-minute game. He was very happy for scoring four goals in the game beating Future Star FC with 8-4 on Tuesday, and he was good at attacking from the flank.
"I have played football for two years, we learnt to dribble the ball, pass and shoot, corner kick and free kick, my coach is professional," said Zhao Zihao, "I dreamt of playing football like Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi."
Many football clubs like Xiyue which teach youngsters to play football have been set up in China in recent years.
"Football is very popular in China now, many children want to play football, but most of teachers in primary schools are not professionals and are not capable of finding talented players at an early age," said Li Zaixi, president of Xiyue football club.
But the situation is changing as China is introducing football to more and more schools nationwide.
13,381 schools were named "schools specializing in football" in 2015 and 2016 and campus football has enjoyed a great progress. That number will be increased to 20,000 till the end of 2017, the authorities said.
Wang Zitao, a 9 year-old student in Huashan Road primary school in Zhengzhou which is a "school specializing in football", has been playing football for a year.
"We have football training after school every day besides PE class, I like playing football very much," said Wang Zitao.
"Wang Zitao is a member of the school team, so he trains 1 or 1.5 hours more than others every day," said Wen Xiaobo, a teacher of Huashan Road primary school, "We spent more time on football training in our school, and we take part in many matches held in Zhengzhou every year."