Sun Jihai did not fall in love with football; the game fell in love with him. The son of a football fitness coach, the former Palace and Manchester City defender would go running and the coaches would look up and see an athlete who would make a fine player.
The main obstacle to Sun Jihai becoming a professional player, one of only a handful of Chinese to grace these shores and by far the most successful, was that it was not a job he yearned for.
This is not how it usually happens in China. For most aspiring players, it is clear that for most of them it is a struggle to convince their families that football is a dream worth pursuing.