Sat, 27 Nov 2021

An Italian basketball coach's dream in China

19 Nov 2021, 11:30 GMT+10

© Provided by Xinhua

HAIKOU, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- Every Saturday morning, Gianmarco Sapio turns up on time on the court of the NBA Basketball School in Haikou, capital of south China's Hainan Province, ready to teach the kids how to play basketball.

Sapio, 33, from "the city of the sun" Naples, south Italy, has been a basketball coach in China for eight years, and now is the basketball technical director of Haikou NBA Basketball School.

"In sports, the most important thing is they love what they do, especially when they are very young," said the coach who believes interest is the best teacher. The first thing he teaches the kids other than skills is to love the game, respect teammates, and follow the rules.

Sapio fell in love with basketball at the age of six. "When I played, I always had a better understanding of the game, better than my peers," he said.

It was the passion for basketball that kept Sapio playing, and when he taught his first class at 18, it was then he knew he "just could not live without it."

"I love being on the court with the kids, having fun with them, and sharing my knowledge with them. I learned that was kind of in my nature," said the Italian coach.

Before he started his career in 2019 in Hainan, Sapio had worked in Shanghai and Dongguan, south China's Guangdong Province.

He received his first job offer in China in 2013 to be a sports consultant in basketball operations in a sports club located in Shanghai. "I love coaching players from different countries and different cultures, so I accepted the offer without hesitation," Sapio recalled.

What drove the Italian to Shanghai was not only his obsession with the sport but also the vast basketball market in China, the world's most populous country of 1.4 billion people.

Hard work certainly pays off. When he served as U15 team head coach in Dongguan Basketball School, he led the team to victory, winning twice China's national U15 championships.

Sapio won the CBA Youth Coach of the Year award in 2018, making him the first coach from overseas to win this honor.

Having lived in Haikou for two years, he fell in love with the island, and the life here suits him well.

"The climate in Hainan is similar to my hometown. The summer here lasts long, and winter is really short. I enjoy the sun, beaches and the sea," he said.

A few months ago, Sapio got his driving license. He likes to drive along the seaside and go to different cities on the island. "I'm trying to learn how to surf," he said.

After spending eight years in China, Sapio says China is a safe and lovely country, and the Chinese and southern Italians have a lot in common. "We are all friendly, adaptable, and passionate about life."

He also loves Chinese food, especially leek-stuffed Jiaozi, or dumplings, which always remind him of the ravioli back at home.

"I feel like I have made a home here, and it's my second home," said Sapio, who hopes to contribute to basketball and help grow the game in China.

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