by Esteban Mikkelsen Jensen
BUENOS AIRES, June 29 (Xinhua) -- Lyu Sunhao embodies China's dream of becoming a soccer powerhouse.
The 15-year-old junior football player is training in Argentina -- the country that has produced global soccer prodigy Lionel Messi -- hoping to absorb some of the national knack for the game.
"My dream is to play in Argentina, to become the first Chinese to debut in South America's first division, then return to my country and play for the national soccer team," Lyu told Xinhua, adding "Messi is my idol and for the Chinese, too."
The talented youngster has been living in Buenos Aires for a month, at the guesthouse of Club Atletico River Plate, one of Argentina's top sports teams.
River's guesthouse, located inside the club's facilities in the northern neighborhood of Belgrano, a few meters away from the imposing Monumental Stadium, has housed other young players who went on to shine in different leagues around the world.
"I am very happy to be in Argentina. River is one of the biggest clubs in the world, and I want to take advantage of it to step up my game," said Lyu.
"What's hardest for me now is the language barrier," he said, though he's already picked up key Spanish football terminology, like "pase corto" (short pass), "pase largo" (long pass), "cabezazo" (header), "punto penal" (penalty mark) and, what sums up his life these days, "partido de futbol" (soccer game).
"Pucca," as his fellow junior football players affectionately call him, after the star character in the South Korean animated series, was destined to play soccer.
Born in Ningbo in eastern Zhejiang province, Lyu's passion for soccer was sparked by his father, Gao Xin, who has trained a large number of youngsters.
The central midfielder arrived in Argentina on a one-year contract and is waiting on some pending immigration procedures to officially debut in the youth championship.
"He is adapting quite quickly. He takes instruction well, despite the language barrier, and that speaks of an intelligent boy," former River defensive player and lower division coach Jorge Gordillo said.
Gordillo -- an Intercontinental Cup and Copa Libertadores champion in 1986, along with such personalities as Nery Pumpido, Oscar Ruggeri, Hector Enrique, Norberto Alonso and Antonio Alzamendi -- said Lyu could pick up traits that are particular to South American players, such as their playfulness on the field.
"Here, boys that age have experience playing in a more relaxed, amateur atmosphere, and that is sometimes what kids from other countries lack, like Lyu, who comes from China. From those informal games you gain competitiveness, the passion that gives you an edge when playing professionally," Gordillo said.
Luis Xu, a football agent born to Asian parents in Argentina, said China's national project to strengthen soccer will see more Chinese players training in world leagues.
"It is good for players to come from China," said Gordillo, noting Messi has raised Argentine soccer to a level that has drummed up interest in the national game from around the world.
Lyu, who last year trained for three months in the third division of another Argentine club, UAI Urquiza, agreed.
"Here, the level of the sport is more more demanding, intensive, it's a different pace," said Lyu.