They say football, or soccer, transcends languages and barriers. After 20 years as sister cities, the Sunshine Coast and the city of Xiamen in China, can attest to that, as they welcome the first delegation of Xiamen student footballers to our region today.
The visit is part of the China Football Reform Master Plan which aims to build youth football capacity in the lead up to AFC Asian Cup which will be hosted by China. As part of the same plan, The Xiamen Municipal Bureau of Education, Xiamen Municipal Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and Xiamen People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries co-hosted the 2016 and 2018 Xiamen International Football Culture Camp for Youth of sister cities.
In 2016 and 2018 Sunshine Coast youth football teams travelled to Xiamen to compete in the International Football Culture Camp and the players and officials are excited to be able to host the Xiamen players on the Sunshine Coast for the first time in return.
The 16 students, aged between 15 and 17 years, from the port city of Xiamen on China’s south-east coast will be treated to an indigenous cultural experience, sample our local cuisine, visit Caloundra State High school and get to see our animals up close at Australia Zoo. They will also participate in two football matches against local teams in Beerwah and Caloundra and attend a training session with some of the Sunshine Coast’s best soccer coaches.
Sunshine Coast Football President Tony McCrae has led the local Sunshine Coast youth team to China for the past two International Football Culture Camps in Xiamen and said the cultural exchanges made a real difference to the students and parents who attended.
“I often say that I leave Australia with a team of boys and return with men,” he said. “The students see a very different culture and world to ours and they return really appreciating what we have here on the coast and in Australia.
“They eat the local cuisine and attend local markets which are quite eye-opening for them and even things like not being able to communicate on Facebook or other western social media, our students just can’t believe. It really opens up their minds.”
Mr McCrae hopes that the Xiamen Youth Football delegation will be able to go back home after this trip and tell others about the fantastic time they had on the Sunshine Coast and encourage others to travel here.
Councillor Jenny McKay celebrates the visit, “this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of a Sister City Friendship Charter between the Sunshine Coast Council (and the former Maroochy Shire Council) and the Xiamen Municipal Government”.
“Cultural and sporting exchanges are important for the region and its people as the Sunshine Coast continues to increase its local to global connections,” she said.
“Xiamen and the Sunshine Coast have a relationship that has evolved over many years and we have developed strong linkages. The youth delegations are another wonderful area of mutual interest to both locations. It is also a great opportunity for the delegation to learn more about our Sunshine Coast so they can share with their friends and families back home, which may see them visit again as future students at our TAFE or universities.”
The 20 members of the youth football team from the Xiamen No2 High School, comprising students, coaches and government officials, will visit from Friday 23 to Tuesday 27 August.
Football supporters are invited to help welcome the Sister City delegation and cheer the students as they play a match at Beerwah Glasshouse United on Saturday 24 August at 3pm and Caloundra Football Club on Sunday 25 August at 11am.
Go to www.sunshinecoastfootball.com.au for more details about how you can get involved in coming soccer seasons in the region.