Spanish football coach Francesc traveled halfway across the world, “kicking” his way from Spain to Kunming, to pass on his superb skills and enthusiasm to local youngsters.
Francesc's father is a teacher and came into contact with many Chinese students through his work. The seriousness and hard work of the Chinese students impressed him and made him curious about Chinese culture. As a result, he kept encouraging Francesc to go and visit China.
Francesc with China’s flag. [Photo/Kunming Images]
To Francesc, Kunming was a strange city that he had never even heard of before coming to China. "The cultures of Europe and the US are too similar. If you’ve decided to break out of your comfort zone, you might as well try seeing different scenery and experiencing different cultures,” he said.
Francesc's Chinese name is "Xiao Liu", which may seem random, but it means a lot to him.
“The pronunciation of 'Cesc' [short for Francesc] is very similar to 'six' [Chinese: liu]. My boss gave me that name when I first arrived in Kunming.” Francesc is also aware that “6” is used to describe things going smooth and well in China, and that many young people use the internet slang “666” to praise others. In Spain, surfers often use the “shaka sign” (the same gesture used in China to signal the number six), as a way of saying “hello”.
After four years in Kunming, although he is not able to communicate as freely as he would have liked to, he is relatively fluent in Chinese football terminology, which is of great help when working as a football coach for children.
As a coach, Francesc always tries his best to impart his knowledge to students in the most direct and effective way. During the training sessions, Francesc not only teaches his students football skills, but English in the process. “Chinese kids actually have a lot of talent and great learning ability when it comes to playing football.”
With the pandemic, the loss of students and other difficulties, Francesc went back to his hometown. But after a period of rest at home, Francesc hurried back to China. “Difficulties are only small tests. I wouldn’t be me if I gave up easily.” After hearing of his return, many parents brought their children to allow them to train with him, which also gave him a lot of confidence. “These signs of improvement show that I can do better in my career,” he said. “I have to hang on and see where my peak is.
Francesc leads students in football practice. [Photo/Kunming Images]
Playing an intense and highly competitive sport, football players get used to injuries. In order to achieve a rapid recovery, most athletes are accustomed to using modern medical treatment to heal their injuries, but sometimes this is not enough.
After an injury where he dislocated his spine, Francesc tried all kinds of medical treatments, but still could not completely recover. Determined to making every possible effort, Francesc tried traditional Chinese medicine and gradually developed a love for Tai Chi. “It was only a few simple movements that made the capillary on my hands begin to turn red and hot. At that moment, I felt the flow of blood.” Francesc said that since then, he has begun to pay more attention to lifestyle habits such as diet and sleep, and the martial art Taiji has become one of his personal hobbies.
Francesc has now been working in Kunming for four years. Time has given Francesc many surprises and proved that he made the right choice.
His favorite sight in China so far is standing on the top of a mountain in Zhangjiajie at sunrise, surrounded by golden morning fog. He also likes Kunming, with its spring-like weather all year round. Even when the weather turns cooler, you can still feel the sunshine and see the beautiful colors on the street. Of course, he has also enjoyed the enthusiasm and kindness of Chinese people, which made him feel at ease in this foreign country.
Kunming is a stop for Francesc to explore China and the world. In the future, he wants to go further and start more wonderful chapters of his life.