Sun Wen: Women's game in China showing football’s spirit
Chinese Women's Super League returned to action this month
Ten teams compete for this season's title in a revamped format
Sun Wen shares her prospects for the competition and local development
The women's game in China has returned to action with the 2020 Chinese Women's Super League commencing on 23 August. Playing in a centralised format in Kunming, Yunnan Province, ten teams compete against each other across two phases for this season's title.
Holders Jiangsu Suning, under Jocelyn Precheur, enter this year's campaign aiming to defend their title. With two wins out of three, they are currently fourth after a recent 3-0 defeat to Wuhan Jiangda. Sitting jointly at the top of the table are Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank and Wuhan, with both having maintained an unblemished record with three opening wins. The former enter the fray aiming to clinch the title for a record nine times while the latter are chasing maiden success.
"It is great to see the women's league back in action," Chinese legend Sun Wen, overseeing the competition as the vice-president of the CFA (Chinese Football Association), told FIFA.com. "This is indeed inspiring. It shows the strength of the women's game and it is also a testament to the courage of the players."
Solidarity and responsibility
Indeed, both the players and managerial staff defied the odds following the COVID-19 outbreak. Even during lockdown, all the players remained self-disciplined training at home. They tried every means to maintain fitness and form with many of their training videos going viral online.
"Football is a sport which requires spirit," added Sun, the FIFA Female Player of the Century. "By re-launching the league, we want to convey a message that we never lose our confidence and passion for the game. The pandemic may have caused difficulties to us. However, it has also made us think about the meaning of life. The world needs solidarity and responsibility [in fighting the virus] and we can demonstrate it through football."
Phase one runs a little over three weeks from August 23 - September 18 with the teams competing across nine matchdays. The top-four finishers will contend for the title in phase two from September 28 - October 10 while the remainder compete for places from fifth to tenth.
"Teams used to play on home and away bases but for safety reasons, we changed the format to single round robin. All the matches are played in the same venue so it saves travelling and moving about. We place top priority on players' safety and health and all our preparation and organisation work is done in close accordance with the medical requirements.”
The competition features a number of local and, notably, also foreign stars. Steel Roses ace striker Wang Shanshan, Wuhan's new acquisition, has scored four times, including completing a brace against Jiangsu to head the scoring-chart. Sharing the top-scorer place alongside her is former AFC Women's Player of the Year Ma Xiaoxu, whose goals have helped Beijing to two victories.
All the more impressive are a series of imported stars. Topping the list is Shanghai's Zambia international striker Barbra Banda, who has managed four goals. Having fired Jiangsu to last year's championship through her Player of the Season performances, Malawi forward Tabitha Chawinga has maintained her goalscoring momentum with two strikes to date.
"This season there are a total of ten foreign players signed by the teams. They have excelled with their respective teams so far and have managed ten goals in the opening two matchdays," said Sun.
With the competition drawing increasing attention, Sun is optimistic there will be fresh gems unearthed. “This competition provides a good opportunity for our national team's coaching staff to take stock of the team. They can watch the form of the star-players and try to discover fresh faces.
“For me, I am especially hoping to see the emergence of youth talents. Those having played in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup will be on close watch by us. We are expecting new stars to impress in this campaign.”