Fresh approach called for to catch European Rivals
KUALA LUMPUR — Chinese legend Sun Wen admits she misses her glorious playing days but says the standard of women's soccer nowadays is at a higher level than when she laced up her boots, adding that Asian nations will need to innovate to catch up with their vastly improved rivals.
To celebrate the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Women's Football Day, which falls on International Women's Day, Sun was featured in the latest edition of the AFC's "It's My Game" series this week.
In a piece entitled "The rising Sun — the inspiring story of China's legendary soccer player", the Chinese Football Association's vice-president shared her views on a variety of topics, ranging from her own career to the latest developments in the women's game.
She has not just witnessed but also analyzed the leaps made by women's soccer in recent years as a member of FIFA's Technical Study Group at the 2019 Women's World Cup.
And with Team China now no longer the force it was when she played, Sun reckons a fresh approach is needed.
"We have seen the rise of European women's soccer not only through results but also in tactical performance," she said.
"Compared to my generation, a significant characteristic of women's soccer in this era is that there are many brilliant players in every position, meaning Asian teams, including China, will face bigger challenges," she said.
"Only high-level and high-quality matches can improve players. Organizing competitions, especially a professional league, is the key to boosting the game. The FIFA Women's World Cup in France also showed the innovation of the women's soccer landscape. As soccer administrators in Asia, we need to promote our competitions with innovative ideas."
Considered one of the greatest women's players of all time, Sun was named the FIFA Female Player of the Century in December 2000, won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards thanks to her performances at the 1999 Women's World Cup, as well as the AFC Women's Player of the Year award in the same year. Sun said her most treasured career memories lie beyond those glories.
"I am not obsessed with titles and honors," she said. "To me, the valuable memories are the fantastic teamwork, the atmosphere in the stadium and the interactions with fans. My teammates and I still relish these precious memories."
After hanging up her boots, Sun worked in journalism, advertising and education, before entering soccer administration and being appointed as the leader of the women's game in the world's most populous nation.
"The administrative position requires a holistic view, an open mind and close coordination," she said. "From the bottom of my heart, I miss those days on the pitch as it was to me a place of happiness."
Comparing current players with those of her generation, Sun said players nowadays benefit from a better soccer environment and facilities, but face broader challenges in an ever-changing society.
"There are many challenges for women players, including the various societal perceptions and how to balance family and career at the same time," she said. "So, I encourage women players to experience different possibilities. Every step counts. Those invaluable lessons will help you become a greater person to overcome those difficulties one day."