They were all young and full of pride when they got this letter. They got ready to pack their equipment and begin a journey to a camp in an unknown place, all to be prepared for their national duty.
It's not a scene from another Hollywood film about war, but this is the reality that 55 young Chinese footballers will face in the next three months. China decided to write another episode on their bizarre dream to become one of the best football nations in the world.
Last week, China decided to call up 55 young players for a training camp in order to establish the "CFA Team". It's actually a large squad of U-25 players that one day may lead the national team to the highest levels. The details about this camp are still secret and the only detail that everyone knows is that they will leave their clubs for three months.
There were some rumors about the location of the camp, and the most common one pointed out Tibet as the players’ new home. The Chinese FA denied these rumors but still didn't reveal the location. According to some reports, the team will be completely isolated and all the training sessions will be closed for any visitors.
The real problem is the fact that these players will miss the final league matches of the season. For teams at the bottom of the table, it might be crucial for their relegation battles. Moreover, the league rules require from each team to use in each game an equal number of foreigners and youngsters. Even though the league decided to soften the rules for the last match, teams without large enough squads may face some problems.
The development process of the Chinese football is amazing, but it's not the first time that the Chinese FA is making unusual decisions for their young players.
A year ago, the Chinese U-20 national team was sent to a training camp in Germany, as part of a bilateral agreement between the Chinese and the German governments. As part of this camp, the team was supposed to play against local teams from the Regionalliga, the fourth division in Germany. After the first match was abandoned due to fan protests for Tibet, the rest of the camp was canceled and the team got back home.
The current rule of using the same number of foreign players and young players was introduced to the league in the current season after the previous rules were a complete failure. Last season, teams had to play with at least one U-23 player in their first XI. Some of the managers found a way to skip this rule by substituting the young players in the early part of the match. André Villas-Boas, who managed Shanghai SIPG, made such changes more than once even before the 15th minute.
Behind the scenes, the Chinese fans are furious. In the popular social network, Weibo, one of the most common comments was calling the call-up day as "the day that the Chinese football died".
Nobody believes that the FA will reverse its decision. After so many failures, the Chinese football decision-makers will need to figure out whether these ideas are really promoting the next generation of players. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can replace the work at the grassroots level. Based on the recent progress of the national team, China will be a strong football nation one day, but are these instant solutions are really necessary?