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China writes history

20th of September 2020, a date which from now on will not only be celebrated for the 71th birthday of George R.R. Martin, but more important this date will be remembered as the day China wrote HT history!
On this specific day, China won their first World Cup, which was also the first gold medal for any Asian country. After the celebrations in China and Asia cooled down a bit, we had the pleasure to interview pashaoye (13221097), who was the assistant coach of Chenxiaolin (12188748).

Hi Pashaoye. Thanks for your time and answering our questions, we hope both you and the readers will enjoy this interview. Can you please introduce yourself? Who is the man behind the manager and what is he doing in real life?

Hi Zlatan2601, I want to take this chance to say hello to all the readers and to say thanks to all the managers who had trained or are training players for Chinese National team. They helped a lot.
My real name is Zhang Hao, call me little p. I am a 28 years old, a PM working for an E-commerce platform in China. I live alone in Nanjing, my family (including mom and dad) live in Chengdu.

The main reason for this interview is obviously because you (T2) and Chenxiaolin (BC) have recently won the Hattrick World Cup! Winning the WC is each time a great accomplishment, but especially this year as it’s the first medal for China and immediately a gold medal. Additionally, it’s even the first gold medal for any Asian country! So many congratulations. Could you tell us in short how the WC run went?

Thanks so much. We were so lucky.
In the Qualification phase, we were grouped with Poland, Latvia and Switzerland. They made us nervous because they are too strong for us. We had a healthy portion of lucky in the matches against these direct opponents.
In the Elimination phase, every game is difficult. The only thing we could do is to prepare ourselves as much as possible and accept the results (win or lose).

Chenxiaolin has been BC for several campaigns, each time winning the elections with a huge amount of votes. You are his assistant for the last 3 campaigns. What is your relation with Chenxiaolin? What are your responsibilities as his assistant coach?

We are online friends. We talk a lot about National team, HT and real life. None of the members of the National Team have met each other in real life.
Chenxiaolin did most of the work. When he was busy at RL work I would help him to collect all required information about our opponents. We would discuss the tactics in detail with all the National team members including scouts, assistant scouts and think-tanks. Because it is 2 am in China when the games started and we did not want to make any mistake caused by tiredness, I would check all orders before the game started.

In WC XXIX and WC XXX you were close but did not survive the qualification round. In the last WC (XXXI) you won the qualification round with an amazing 38 points out of 42. What is your secret? Did you approach the qualification round differently or was it mainly the luck/ME factor?

In WC XXIX, we were in the group with Poland, France, Ukraine. We were close to qualifying, one point behind France. In WC XXX, we did not have good results and lost many points when we were favorite.
In the last WC (XXXI), we didn’t change anything, just collected information, had a detailed discussion, carefully set the orders and enjoyed the games. To be honest, we were very lucky, winning some underdog games, but everybody needs some luck in HT.

In round II and III, you each time won the group with 7 points out of 9, meaning you still did not lose any game. In round IV however, you started with a draw and you lost the second game, so you were on the edge of leaving the tournament. How did you prepare your last game against Finland (Suomi)? You played MOTS against a PIN of Finland. Were you not afraid that the MOTS would waste your chances in next rounds? Was the main goal to get a medal, or were you still thinking about gold?

We prepared it as usual. In round IV, Finland, Denmark, Czech Republic and China were in group B. If I remember well all teams had a relatively high TS (7), except Czech Republic (TS of 3). Unfortunately Czech Republic played MOTS against us in the first round ending the game in a draw. Then we lost the second round against Denmark playing PIN and we knew it would be very difficult. In order to make it to the semifinals we needed to win the last round with at least 2 goals difference. Our main goal was to get a medal that time, but we anticipated that Finland would not use a MOTS as they were aiming for gold. And even with us playing MOTS against a PIN, we knew it would still be a difficult game, so MOTS was the only choice we had.

Link to the game: (663908006)

In the semi-finals, you faced Estonia (Eesti), which was a very strong team and one of the top candidates for the gold medal. They also had the TS advantage after your MOTS against Finland. A counter attack was the obvious choice and you managed it pretty well. Still, it was the second round where China was a bit lucky (around 25% wins in replays) but that’s part of the game and China boosted their underdog position to the maximum. How many hours did you and Chenxiaolin spend to prepare this game?

Counter attack did not seem to be a good choice in this WC, as you saw in the qualification rounds where many big team lost their counter attack (CA) games. However, when we reached semi-finals, we were dreaming of gold and we needed TS, so we chose CA.
Not only chenxiaolin and me, all the members spent almost 3 hours before the match to analyze Estonia’s players and past games. We discussed a lot.

Link to the game: (664131359)

Are there any other members of the team which had big contributions in making it this far in the tournament?

Yes, sayajj (13521972) did a great job being our lucky charm. If we had a difficult game, we would ask him to watch the game live and we won. The games started at 2 am in China but he still watched the matches against Finland and Estonia, so he sacrificed a lot of sleep and it payed off.

The finals against Iran. It was already a historic game, 2 Asian teams in the final. Did you have any contact with the team behind Iran? With the Covid-19 situation it might have been difficult, but how did you and the team follow the game?? What did you feel after the final whistle knowing that you won the WC?

No, we didn’t have any contact with Iran’s team. All our focus was on the game itself.
Our team followed the game on internet in a QQ group. Covid-19 has been effectively controlled in China, we are free to go anywhere with mask.
We didn’t meet because of the distance and time. China has vast territory, it takes at least 5 hours to fly from west to east or south to north of China.
To be honest, I was sleeping at the final whistle. I woke up at 7 am Beijing time and everybody in the QQ group was celebrating. I felt so happy as it rewards all the managers who helped the Chinese National team. They trusted us and we delivered a gold medal.

Link to the game: (664332179)

Obviously for each cup win, you need a bit of luck. What game was critical in your path?

Besides the matches against Finland and Estonia, the most critical one is the match against Poland. It was the second time we were in the same group and Poland is a very strong HT country. Each time time we won some points from Poland, we were excited and it gave us confidence for future games.

What did you learn and besides the amazing results you achieved, were there any mistakes made or things you would handle differently if you had the change?

Yes, we still lacked experience and learned a lot. The matches against Luxembourg (first game in round III) we played PIN. Even though we won, it was not a good choice as it’s crucial to build up TS.

Winning the HT WC is an amazing achievement for HT-managers, but with around 1 000 active managers in a huge country like China, we can imagine that you are still able to shop or go out for a drink without being harassed by crazy people for autographs or a selfie. How did your RL family/friends react on your achievements?

That’s an interesting question. Once I woke up and learned that we won the WC, I shared it with my girlfriend. She congratulated me with an indifference look, hahaha. When I explained what achievements it is, she said maybe we could have a drink tonight.

As said, China is a huge country with only 1 000 managers. What do you think is the reason that Hattrick is more popular in China? How do you think HT could attract more Chinese managers?

Hattrick is a slow and hard-core game and it is hard for new users to get started. The feedback mechanism is another problem, as it takes time to learn whether your choices and actions (matches, training, and transfer) are rewarded. This makes it hard to make users addicted.
On a serious note, HT need to solve the users’ retention problem. Many users played for only one day and became bots after 7 weeks. I would suggest to give new users some rewards for their daily log in so they keep coming back and over time they will learn to love the game.

We all know that there will be some changes in the WC and U20/U21 format, there will also be additional national cups. What is your opinion about the new WC format? Do you think this was a necessary change? What do you like/not like about it?

I like it as the new WC format gives more games for the managers. As more potential young players will be involved in the National teams, hopefully more managers will be inspired. That is a good way to attract users (old or new).

A question about your main team, I saw that you won the second division, but never played in the first division. Do you still have ambitions with your first team, or will you focus mainly on the national teams?

I care about both. I tried to play in the first division, but l lost my playoff two seasons ago. Maybe 3 seasons later, when my young players reach 28 year, I will increase the stamina to give it another try. For now training is priority.

The obvious question about RL, we are all living in exceptional times due to the Covid-19 crisis. Can you tell us a bit about how Covid-19 affected the life in China and also your personal life?

As Covid-19 had been effectively controlled in China, we don’t worry anymore about being infected. We go to school and work as usual. The only difference is that we must wear a face mask in public and temperature must be checked before we go into any building, but that’s a good way to protect ourselves and families.

I’m always curious when talking to HT managers: if you could change something within HT, anything you want, what would it be?

I would like players with two or more specialties, or training players two separate skills in parallel also for the adult teams.

Thanks pashaoye for your time and sharing your experience during this WC win. We wish you all the best in your HT career and in RL.
Stay safe!

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