Saturday 30 March 2019, 12:02

Captain Wu Haiyan hoping to lead by example in France

  • Wu Haiyan hoping world will see more mature China PR team

  • Says she has grown into role of captain

  • Hopes that her side can go one better than 1999 finalists

It didn’t quite go according to plan for China PR captain Wu Haiyan and her team-mates in Canada in 2015. The team were hoping to ‘shock the world’ when they reached the quarter-finals, but fell short after a narrow 1-0 defeat to eventual winners, USA.

“2015 was a year with some regrets,” said Wu. “That year people learned that Team China was still young, but full of enthusiasm. After four years of effort, I hope this year we are to be recognised as a more mature, tactical and organised team.”

At just 26, Wu has immense responsibility on her shoulders as China looks to go one step further than the team of 20 years ago, when a Sun Wen-led side narrowly lost out on penalties to USA at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup™.

The defender said wearing the armband was something she found a little more difficult starting out, but has grown into the role, enjoying the responsibility of looking out for her ‘family’.

“Being a captain is the same as everyone else, we team up together. This entire team is a family to me, but as a captain I sometimes communicate more with other players.

“I was very shy in my young age, but I gradually found it meaningful and pleasant putting all my sisters together and doing something for them. Our team will be more united with everyone’s support.”

Wu will perhaps take inspiration from her sporting idol, tennis player Li Na. The Australian Open and French Open winner is one of China’s most recognised athletes, winning a host of major titles at the sport’s highest level. It is that success which drives Wu to want to do well this year in France, with her team due to face Germany, Spain and debutants South Africa.

“Li Na has had the largest impact on me. While representing the nation, she is so confident and powerful – this is what I need to learn from her.

“There are many legendary players in China who inspired me, but I play football because of my love for football itself. Football has provided me infinite happiness, and that will last forever.”

One player who will not have any adjustment to make in France this year is Paris Saint-Germain forward, Wang Shuang. She is currently the only member of the national team that plays her football outside of China.

The switch made big headlines and Wu revealed that Wang’s move has inspired others to consider following suit.

“Many other players in China were inspired by Wang Shuang’s PSG move. We’ve got lots of girls like her who would like to play overseas and to experience more.

“We believe that this kind of experience will bring positive things to our football careers, life and personal development in the future. I am sure that she has enthused other players and even the young ones who have just started to play.”

But Wu’s first focus is this year's tournament in France, with the Steel Roses kicking off their tournament on 8 June against two-time winners Germany.

If they are to repeat what the team of 1999 were able to do, they will have to do it the hard way. But Wu is hopeful of not only progressing in the tournament like their counterparts 20 years ago, but also hopes to have the same impact on young girls and inspire them to want to play for their country.

“Since 1999, the Steel Roses have become our pride. They have made a profound impression on the world and encouraged players like us, generation by generation.

“We hope that their spirit of hard work, unity and love will be succeeded by our generation. We also hope that through our efforts, more and more girls can join us in this game and dare to shine for their dreams.”

China captain Wu Haiyan