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When Passion Meets Practicality: How Football Schools Can Recruit in China

A school where spending time on the football pitch isn’t just a part of gym class might be every high schooler’s dream, but parents might not be as on board.

While many Chinese students dream of becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo, many parents are skeptical given the millions of players fighting for a few professional spots. As students' passion meets parent’s practicality, is there a way to allow students to succeed academically and athletically?

On the Ground: Football in China

An early version of football, cuju (蹴鞠), was played 2,300 years ago in China and recently, President Xi Jinping, reportedly a football fan himself, announced the ambitious goal of winning the World Cup by 2050, calling for the construction of tens of thousands of fields and training centers.

China is no stranger to football-focused schooling; Guangzhou Evergrande's Football School boasts 50 pitches and a student population of 2,500, and China’s Ministry of Education announced planned to establish 3,000 “soccer kindergartens” across the country, and plans plans to have up to 18 'key cities' dedicated to soccer by 2025.

Football Academies: China vs. Europe

Chinese parents are known to be fiercely focused on their children's academic success: A 2021 study found that 92% of parents surveyed enrolled their children in extracurricular classes, and 50% of these families spent more than USD$1,500 annually. In the race to provide the best resources possible, athletics fall fairly low on a list of priorities.

Although China’s football academies are supported by European staff (Evergrande Football School’s coaches include alumna of Real Madrid Foundation and the Spanish League), many European football schools are directly connected to professional football clubs, giving students exposure to high-level players and coaches. What can European football academies offer Chinese families as parents look to support their student’s passion but with an eye on academic success?

eduFair China sat down with Getafe International Football Academy in Spain, International Center of European Football in France, and International Futbol X-Change in the UK to discuss what European football schools have to offer Chinese students.

All three of the schools strive to develop well-rounded student athletes, emphasizing academic excellence and the importance of setting clear and realistic expectations during the recruitment process: as much as schools and parents alike strive to support the dreams of their students, the reality is that not every player will make it big.

That’s where academics come in; students spend their afternoons on the pitch with some of the sports top players and coaches, and their mornings in the classroom, pursuing either an American or an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and attending masterclasses from industry professionals. This exposure to two professional settings in the football world provides a “Plan B”, so students can transform their passion for football into one of many related fields - team ownership and management, physiotherapy, and athletic training, to name a few.

How To: Succeed in Football School Recruitment in China

Many of these academies are as international as football itself and primarily draw students from across America and Europe. As sports-focused schools look to grow their international student populations, how can they enter China’s historically academically-focused market?

  • Keep Expectations Clear and Realistic: Applicants may be hesitant to acknowledge the possibility of not reaching their goal of playing professionally, but it’s critical to ensure students understand your program's goal: to set students up for success, whether on the field or off.

  • Parent-Focused Communication: Don’t underestimate the sway of Mom and Dad: create opportunities for parents to connect with their student's experiences. What will a day in their player’s life look like? How will their child be supported overseas? Our guide for including Chinese parents in student recruitment is a great place to start.

  • Explain Athletics: Ensure parents and players understand that time on the field will be both physically and intellectually challenging. Players will learn to understand the game and its' culture, make individual and team decisions, and develop problem solving strategies to tackle play issues - all skills young players can use on and off the field.

  • Highlight Academics: Don’t let parents or students think that a football school is just for football. Highlight alumni (Chinese or not) that have succeeded in the game and in non-play related fields. Help parents understand how much time their student will devote to academics, and what that curriculum is. Your admissions process can demonstrate this with competitive athletic, academic and English language requirements, reflecting the high standards to which your school holds its students.

How-To: Optimize Chinese Student Recruitment in China

Digital platforms are the best way to reach students and families across China. Free and fully-accessible via Chinese internet, eduFair's platform gives institutions total control of their brand and a consistent digital presence for students and parents to engage with at all stages of their application cycle.

As a digital recruitment platform and APP, eduFair prioritizes student fit and success and addresses common recruitment challenges in China. Features on eduFair include:

  • Dedicated School Search: Your institution can be found by Chinese families based on your program offerings and their student’s preferences.

  • Clubs Corner: Show off your school’s facilities and extra curricular activities to show them what their life will look like on your campus.

  • Partnership Search: An opportunity to find local partners (agents, international schools in China) on eduFair’s platform.

  • Manage Current and Future Parent Relationships: Create groups, have discussions in forums and give feedback to key decision makers - parents.

eduFair provides a venue for open, transparent communication, including opportunities for student ambassadors to share their experiences - a feature proven to help students choose the right school for them.

Help ensure students have all the information they need to make one of the most important decisions of their lives: sign up for free, or get in touch.



eduFair China is a free online platform dedicated to international education and recruitment. Its' platform connects millions of Chinese students with first-hand information while helping institutions recruit qualified students digitally. eduFair aims to give students a more empowered, holistic approach to international education so that they can succeed during their journey abroad.

Learn more about how eduFair can help you reach students across China.



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