Sun Wen: A World-class Soccer Player

  • April 26, 2006
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Sun Wen: A World-class Soccer Player In 2003, during a live chat with fans, Sun Wen expressed her view of SARS. “Facing the deadly epidemic disease, the most important thing for us is to keep courage and bravery,” she said.

With the same courage and bravery, Sun Wen, who celebrated her 30th birthday this April, returned to the Chinese team to prepare for 2003 FIFA World Cup despite injuries and age.

"This will be my last FIFA world cup," she said. "I cherish this chance and I will try my best."

As a 13-year international veteran, Sun Wen started playing football at age 8 with the encouragement of her father, a soccer fan. In 1985, she took an enrollment examination at a local sports school. She passed easily and started her career as a football player.

Only five years later, at 17, she was selected for the Chinese national team. Even as one of the youngest players on the team, her scoring ability and excellent ball skills made her a perennial starter for tough games.

She took part in the first three FIFA Women World Cups and was awarded the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards at the 1999 FIFA World Cup, where China placed second. She also led her team to second place at the 1996 Olympic Games.

Sun Wen left for the U.S. in 2001 and joined the WUSA. There, she gained international recognition from world-class players.

"Sun Wen is a very talented player," said of 2002 FIFA Player of the Year runner-up Birgit Prinze, who helped her team win the WUSA championship. “She is a good passer with special vision and great control. When she has it, it is hard to get the ball off her even though you might think you have.”

Two seasons in WUSA also helped Sun Wen to learn more about football. “I think I have built up my physical energy and now I am better in confrontation with rivals.”

Sun Wen thinks Mia Hamm sets an example of how to act as a team leader. “Mia behaves as the soul of the team on and off pitch. She is very important for U.S. team," she said.

Sun Wen was the best scorer at the 1999 FIFA World Cup, but more recently, some of her supporters have been worried about her physical condition. Several fantastic goals at this year’s Four-nation Tournament and Algrave Cup helped to remove doubts.

China coach Ma Liangxing defended his top striker. “Thirty is not an old age for players who keep up good training like Sun Wen," he said. "I think she will achieve a new peak for the coming World Cup.”

Sun Wen uses her head on and off the pitch


Sun Wen caught football fever from her father at a young age, and watching her on the pitch today, it is obvious that she just loves to play.

"My father was a football player, and that was a big influence on me,” said the FIFA Women’s co-Player of the 20th Century. "When I was in primary school, about 10 years old, I began to play football, and I loved it right away.

"I have spent many years playing football, and I have gotten a great deal from it, not only a career, but inside it gives me a great feeling. The spirit of football has given me very much."

Calling herself "very lucky," Sun’s football career lacks just one accomplishment -- a FIFA Women's World Cup championship. Competing in her fourth FIFA Women's World Cup this year, she is focused on bringing one home to China.

"I have a lot of personal awards, but this time I want to achieve a team goal," ‘Sunny’ explained. "I want to win the top title for my team."

Not to be deterred


Remarkably, when she was 17 years old -- one year away from the 1991 FIFA World Cup in which she started as the main striker for China -- Sun Wen was told she should probably give up playing football.

"My coach said that I did not have the ability to play football," said Sun Wen. "He said I was not very good at it."

Fortunately for China, and the world of women's football, Sun Wen used the criticism to her advantage.

"I did not believe him," she said. "It motivated me. I moved to another team, and the coach told me that if I worked hard, I could become a good player. That's why I keep on training hard every day, and I have become a famous football player.

"I have seen (that coach) since then, but he has never said that again."

Appetite for learning


When she was a young player, Sun Wen had a coach who taught her to use her brain when she played football.

"I am not very big or very tall, so I learned to use my brain," she said.

She uses her brain off the pitch as well; she is an avid reader and studies numerous subjects. When she came to America to play in the WUSA - two injury-filled seasons with Atlanta Beat - Sun used the opportunity to learn to cook, drive a car and learn English, which is nearly perfect now.

"In China, if you are a football player, it is hard to find time to do anything else," she said.

But she finds the time for her cultural interests. She loves museums and art. In fact, she has decided to learn to paint when her football career is over.

Sun Wen did not rise to her elite status by chance. When she speaks with children, she explains the importance of hard work, and one of her chief concerns is providing promising players in China with an example of what can be accomplished.

"I want to be a model for a lot of the Chinese youngsters," she said. "I want to be able to show the young people, and their parents, that there is a future for them. They can follow the same steps and become football players. I can make a difference."



Who has been the most influential person in your life?

Different people at different stages have been great influences on me – my parents, coaches and friends. I feel very lucky.

What was the most difficult moment in your career?

It has been hard playing professional football in China because you don’t have time to do other things.

And the best one?

I think the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the final game. The crowd was very big in the Rose Bowl.

What is your best playing attribute?

I think I have the right feeling, the right view of the match. I use my brain when I play. I use my mind to see.

What is it you lack on the pitch to become a better football player?

Fitness, strength and to be more speedy.

Do you have any hobbies?

Reading, hiking, and I love going to museums. 



Film: I don’t really have one favourite. I like a lot of movies.

Artist: Leonardo Da Vinci

Painting: Mona Lisa

Holiday destination: Shanghai and Vancouver

Animal: Dolphin

Favorite food: Seafood and ice cream

Can you give us your recipe? I like to make eggs with Chinese sausage, green peppers and potatoes and mix everything together.

Perfect day off: Watching the sunrise, chatting with friends, hiking in the mountains, and relaxing.

(Source: FIFA Women's World Cup 2003)


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