ZHENGZHOU, China, July 11 (Xinhua) -- As football fans from around the globe are gearing up for the FIFA World Cup final, a group of Chinese middle school students and their Romanian coach are gathering for training on campus in central China's Henan province.
43-year-old Florin Cristian Parvu is currently in his third stint in Henan, coaching football to children from Zhengzhou No.9 Middle School, with not even Henan's heavy summer rains dampening the students' enthusiasm.
"As long as the weather permits, we will have training. The children should learn to adapt to various conditions," Parvu said.
A former professional footballer, in 1997 Parvu made his first visit to China to sign for second division side Henan Jianye, along with two other Romanian players.
After two years' service in Jianye, he returned to play in Romania, twice representing his country's national team in 2001.
In 2004, Parvu rejoined Henan Jianye and stayed for half a year.
After hanging up his boots in 2011, the Romanian sought to become a coach, and obtained the relevant coaching qualifications from European football governing body UEFA. Five years later, he began coaching at Zhengzhou No.9 Middle School, after having been recommended the position by a friend in China.
Under Parvu's tutelage, the team has made considerable progress over the past two years.
In the latest 2018 national high school football competition, the team finished runner-up, following a second place in the national middle school football tournament in 2017, and third place in the 2016 national high school football competition.
"Many of my students are very good at football, and they are not in the least bit inferior to their European peers in terms of physical quality and speed," Parvu said, adding that what these students lack is a footballing mentality.
These recent on-field success have resulted in an increasing number of aspiring footballers to apply for entry to the school, with the opportunity to work with Parvu proving a big draw.
"Parvu is very strict in training, and he offers a training plan for each class. He instructs us in every aspect of football, including skills, tactics and shooting practise," said goalkeeper Xue Huaqing.
With China having stated its intention to win the FIFA World Cup by 2050, Parvu is adamant the country is on the right track.
"China is now investing a lot of money in campus football, high schools and primary schools, in order to attract more and more students to play football. That's good for the foundations of the sport. It's difficult to say what has blocked the development of football in China, but I know that China is doing the right thing."
"I expect that China will become a football power in the near future." he added.
Parvu has often taken part in public activities, such as coaching football to students from rural areas of China. This plan was initiated by 68-year-old Wang Suisheng, who used to coach at Henan Jianye.
"Wang is a good coach and his project is good for the rural students," Parvu noted.
Having first come here over 20 years ago, the Romanian has adapted well to China's climate and food. He has a particular fondness for dumplings and noodles, and he always watches Henan Jianye's home games.
"I don't know how long I will live here, but China is my second home. I will never forget the days I spent here."