Afshin Ghotbi, the Iranian-American coach of Chinese Super League side Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, said the environment for football in China was perfect to help build a world-class national team. Ghotbi is on his second stint with the newly promoted side, who start their campaign in the delayed and reformatted elite division on Sunday against Hebei China Fortune FC in Suzhou. “The standard [in China] is evolving and will need time to reach its true potential,” said the 56-year-old former Iran national coach, who has worked at the top level in USA, South Korea, Japan and Thailand. “China has everything to develop as a top football nation in Asia and later on the global stage. The players have the physical qualities, winning mentality and ambition for success. Ready⚽️ #ShijiazhuangEverBright pic.twitter.com/qKGwVv2UjP — SJZ Ever Bright FC (@SJZEBFC) July 23, 2020 “With the massive population, economic power and the national pride, the conditions are perfect for development of football in China.” Ghotbi coached Ever Bright between 2016 and 2018 and returned to the club last year after a stint with Iranian side Foolad. He was assistant to South Korean national coach, Dutchman Guus Hiddink, during their run to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup. He is now tasked with helping Ever Bright challenge the big names of Chinese football in the top division. Chinese Super League 2020 kicks off new format. Will it bring new champions? “We are a newly promoted team, and we will have to close the gap quickly to compete in the Super League,” Ghotbi told the Post . “We have worked tirelessly after our promotion on November 2, 2019 to construct a competitive selection. I am happy about our progress, and I look forward to the start of the competition.” Ghotbi said he was happy to return to China, and enjoys life in the mainland. “I have been working in Asia since 2001 and I have always been fascinated with the Chinese culture and people,” he said. “With the Iranian national team, I travelled to China twice for friendly matches, and I was involved with the pre-World Cup friendly South Korea versus China back in April of 2002. “I live a simple life [here]. Football, football and more football. I spend most of my time preparing my team for competition. Of course, I make time to enjoy the delicious Chinese food.” The Chinese Super League kicks off this weekend with 16 teams being divided into two groups and matches being played in Dalian and Suzhou. The top eight teams after a round robin qualify for the quarter-finals. The league has been forced to change the format, with the kick-off delayed by five months, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.