With Jean Tigana taking over the reins at Shanghai Shenhua and welcoming Nicolas Anelka from English Premier League side Chelsea next season, there is something of a French revolution happening in Chinese professional soccer.
However, what many do not realize is that Taiwan began lending a helping hand to this revolution last season when Frenchman David Camhi joined the coaching staff of his compatriot, former Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa, Japan and Olympique de Marseille head coach Philippe Troussier, at Chinese Super League team Shenzhen Ruby.
Camhi first visited Taiwan as a student in 1998 and he returned for work on Sept. 21, 1999, on the day of the 921 Earthquake.
In July 2004, Camhi and his partners set up Master Football Academy (MFA), a company devoted to coaching soccer to children based in Taipei. MFA has run courses all over Taiwan in the more than seven years since. The Taipei Times caught up with Camhi on Saturday following a weekly MFA coaching session in Taipei.
Camhi has returned to Taipei, his home away from home, and he has been back coaching children before he jets back to Shenzhen for the new season.
He was coaching with MFA last year when he saw the news that Troussier had been appointed head coach in Shenzhen. Camhi sent an e-mail to an American friend working in soccer in Japan who knows Troussier and a week later he got a call offering him a position.
Camhi has been important at Shenzhen, not only for his coaching ability, but because he is the only European coach working at the club who speaks Mandarin. His experiences living in Taiwan for more than 12 years have also helped him in Shenzhen.
“We [Shenzhen] have … a coach who is Belgian, the fitness coach is French … and we have three Chinese coaches,” Camhi said. “I am the only one [European] who speaks Chinese. The coaches coach in English and there is a translator who runs all round the field ... China is different, but I understand [the culture] much more than anybody else. Not just the football, but also the business.”
As well as the big money moves at Shanghai, corruption in Chinese soccer has also, once again, been in the news recently, but Camhi said he has not had any experience of it.
Shenzhen were relegated last season, but with ongoing investigations into corruption in the game, it is possible they may be reinstated to the top division come the start of the season.
“I’d say it’s 50-50. Personally, I don’t believe in it,” Camhi said.
Camhi recently took a couple of Taiwanese players to Shenzhen for a trial — Taiwan internationals Chen Po-liang and Victor Chou.
“Chen Po-liang was very good, he is very good, he will be one of the best players in China,” Camhi said. “Because he’s a playmaker … They [China] don’t produce playmakers. He’s been on trial last week, he did OK. We are negotiating his contract right now.”
Taiwanese-Spanish 19-year-old Chou is set to have a trial at Tigana’s Shanghai.
Camhi said Anelka arriving at Shanghai is set to be a huge boost for Chinese soccer.
“It [the impact] will be huge. Huge. Beckham is about to sign in Paris and the impact will be the same,” Camhi said. “What we have in China is very good foreign football players, but no stars. Anelka is a big star.”
With Camhi working with professional players in Shenzhen and children back in Taiwan, he has experience of both forms of coaching.