China U-23 football coach Jankovic aiming for glory at home Asian Games
China's U-23 men's football team will meet their UAE counterparts in the Dubai Cup on Wednesday, marking the first time that the team will play an international match since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Six months from now, the team will compete at the 2022 Asian Games on home soil in Hangzhou, which will be a big test and also a huge opportunity for Chinese football to regain confidence after the senior national team failed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
With a philosophy based on forming a competitive squad with a strong mentality and sense of sacrifice, coach Aleksandar Jankovic has vowed that his team will compete to win at home in Hangzhou.
A TEAM WITH STRONG MENTALITY
"The cornerstones of my philosophy are a strong mentality, sense of sacrifice, strong team spirit and generosity of all the players," Jankovic told Xinhua. "First of all, we are choosing people capable of doing big things together, and even in some moments, suffering together on the field. My philosophy is always related to this human part."
"When you represent such a big country as China, you must show you are honored to wear the jersey. I want to create a fighting team playing with no fear of their opponents, and a team of players ready to give everything for the team," the 50-year-old Serbian added.
"No one is secure in the team. There is no yesterday football. Everyday training is your challenge."
Notably, Jankovic has ruled that players whose Body Fat Rate (BFR) is above 10 percent will not play, which he cites as a unwritten law of professional football.
"This is not personal. If we want to match the strongest teams in future, we must be fit and physically powerful. Only if we can match up with them in terms of aggressivity and intensity, can we make a difference with our qualities. It's impossible to play professional football with 15 percent body fat."
"I want to build up the players' self discipline, and this will be spread to the whole team very fast. This is exactly what's happening in the team right now," he said. "In the future in Hangzhou, my requirement of BFR for my players will be under nine percent."
Due to international travel restrictions, Jankovic has only seen his family once over the past 18 months, and he believes this is a well-deserved sacrifice.
"There is no big result without a big sacrifice. It's too easy to talk about sacrifice when you talk about someone else. I tried to be an example for my players. After that, I have the right to ask them to do the same things."
HIGHEST TARGET FOR ASIAN GAMES
In October last year, China's U-23 team withdrew from the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers because of the pandemic. "These things have nothing to do with football. I'm someone who always look at things in a positive way. Football is not made by excuses, football is made by chances," Jankovic said, noting that his team is ready to go through any difficult moments.
"It's true that compared with others, maybe we have missed some competitions. On the other side, we made a lot of efforts to organize good camps in China, so I don't accept that we are not as competitive as other teams."
"Of course we want to play more matches. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to play in the Dubai Cup. We need to play against good teams to see exactly where we are at this moment. In the last six months [ahead of the Asian Games] we will play more intensive matches, that's very important for us," Jankovic said.
"China has enormous potential in football. For me, it's a big honor to be chosen as the head of such a big project," Jankovic said, noting that he has set many personal targets for himself since he came to China about four years ago.
"I want to create a group of players playing in the Chinese Super League (CSL), to a group of players that we will launch to the senior team, to create a group of players being competitive. I am happy to see some of the small targets have already been achieved."
"All these things go in one big target. I'm not someone who hides the targets. We have the highest targets for Hangzhou Asian Games. There is only one winner in the tournament, we want to be the team who wins.
"I know that there have been a lot of disappointments in the past around football. We have to defend home ground representing China," Jankovic noted.