Ajax trainers initiated in Chinese at Regina Coeli
At the beginning of this year, Ajax trainers Ed Engelkes, Ralf Kebsch, Marc Gosselink and Ian Taylor started developing a youth training programme for top Chinese club Guangzhou R&F FC. They have all the knowledge and experience they need to set up the Ajax Coaching Academy, but weren’t sure how they were going to communicate with the Chinese children.
In preparation for their deployment to China, the Ajax trainers took a Chinese language course at Regina Coeli in December. It was hard work, but it gave the four men a solid foundation in the language.
Youth trainer Ralf Kebsch: “For example, we can greet people and start a conversation. At the beginning of the course, it was really difficult to distinguish between all the tones and sounds of the language, but after a few days, it started to fall into place.”
Ed Engelkes, technical director of the Ajax Coaching Academy in Guangzhou, adds: "It helps that Chinese is straightforward in structure. It’s short and powerful, almost command-like. The challenge, on the other hand, is that a lot of words look the same, but can mean totally different things depending on how you pronounce them. We’ll have to be careful about this, but I expect that we now have a basic level which we can build upon on our own.”
The four trainers were immersed in Chinese with the Nuns of Vught from eight in the morning to nine in the evening for five days. They had lessons from four language trainers from China and Taiwan. Besides the language, the lessons also addressed culture. The gentlemen already had a bit of experience with the Chinese culture from their introduction in Guangzhou a month before taking their course.
Culturally speaking, the trainers foresee a number of challenges. “Ajax stands for creativity, taking initiative and courage. Chinese people are incredibly driven and there’s a lot of pressure on children to perform. That, of course, offers enormous opportunities to spot and train talent," says Engelkes. “On the other hand, we need to be cautious in our approach with these children. We should be less direct and straightforward with them than we are with Dutch children," says Kebsch.
Engelkes and Kebsch thought the hardest part about being immersed in Chinese was the long days of studying and sitting indoors. Engelkes: "It was a great experience, but also incredibly hard work. Our compliments to Regina Coeli—they created our tailor-made programme on short notice. The trainers are incredibly professional and everything around the course is fantastically organised.”
We wish the Ajax team luck in Guangzhou: zhù nǐ hǎoyùn.
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