Li Weifeng warming up
Former Chinese captain Li Weifeng has been a well-known figure in Asian football for a number of years. He is soon set to notch over 100 caps for his nation and, as the new Chinese Super League season gets into its stride, is hoping to lead Shanghai Shenhua to a first title since 2003 and China qualify to the 2010 World Cup.
He found time to talk about China, Qiu Qiu Shanghai and his short stint with Everton.
What happened in the recent World Cup qualifier against Australia?
It was a really good chance to defeat Australia, half of their starting eleven didn’t come to China. Our target in the game was to get three points and we tried our best to win, but we were unlucky. It not the fault of one person, the whole team is responsible.
Does China have to win the next game? Will China qualify?
We should win and we will. If we end up with three draws from three games, it would mean that we have lost six points. If we win the next game, we will have a good chance qualifying. If we don’t win, it won’t be the end of the world. We will fight to the end.
What were your thoughts on Australia?
They are very strong physically and many of them play in Europe. Australia is a strong team.
Can Shanghai win the title this season?
Shanghai has always been one of the teams that challenges for the title. If we win the games that we should win, then we will have a good chance.
How can Chinese football improve?
More and more of our talented players should go to Europe. There they can improve their skills, gain some experience and get the most important thing of all –confidence.
The China national team seems to be getting a reputation as a physical team. is this correct?
No, I don’t think so.
You also have the same reputation…
The physical condition is the basic element of playing football. Besides I think I also have good skill and, actually no one thinks that I’m a piece of wood in the defence line.
What happened at Everton? Why did you only play one game?
You know, it is often hard for a foreigner to communicate with the coach of the team and this is such an important aspect. I once studied football in Brazil, learning some Portuguese, but no English. At Everton, the coach and myself couldn’t communicate properly or exchange ideas.
And then I picked up an injury which didn’t help matters. When I first went to the club, I said to myself: ‘If I can’t get a starting position in three months, I will leave without any hesitation.’ Mr Moyes wanted me stay, but he all he could do was keep telling me to ‘wait.’ But you know it’s hard for a coach to change his defence…
Do you have happy memories of your time in England?
Of course. Beside the result, I don’t think my experience in UK was a waste of time. I still think the style I play is something that learning from England. I felt I grew up there, experiencing more and more. It’s was a good experience!