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China advances massive investment in youth football development
In the wake of ongoing on field disappointment and high political expectations, China is advancing a range of initiatives to build grassroots interest in football by expanding school systems and optimising youth training programs.
Earlier this year, the Physical Education, Health and Art Department of China’s Ministry of Education selected 8,627 primary and secondary schools across the country to teach mandatory football courses en route to developing 50,000 specialist football schools by 2025.
At the time of this announcement, Department Director Wang Dengfeng said the school system would need more guidance from the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and its affiliated training facilities to train more football oriented physical education teachers and technical staff.
At its national congress this week, the CFA has pledged to build a solid grassroots foundation by working with the Ministry of Education to provide competition organising expertise and technical training for physical education teachers and referees.
It also committed to help build more facilities to develop China's fledgling school football system as its key agenda in 2016, to expand the talent pool for the higher echelons of the sport.
CFA President Cai Zhenhua stated “the low competitive level of the high-profile sport doesn't match China's status as an emerging world power nor other social and economic achievements.
“The weak mass participation foundation is one of the key reasons for that, and it should be strengthened by encouraging youth participation by all means.”
The congress, attended by representatives from 47 local associations and clubs, followed the men's national team's disappointing performance in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian qualification.
After tying Hong Kong in a scoreless qualifying match last month, the Chinese squad has virtually missed out on any chance of reaching the next stage of qualification for the next World Cup, maintaining only a theoretical possibility to qualify depending on other teams' results in the pool stage.
That would be China's fourth failed World Cup qualifying campaign, a disappointment in light of President Xi Jinping's fervent wish to see China join world powers in the sport.
To improve future performance, congress attendees agreed that building a sound youth cultivating system - which connects the school leagues, youth programs of local sports bureaus and pro clubs' reserve teams training - should be prioritized as a key to revitalizing the sport.
The China Daily reported that Wei Shubo, Secretary-General of the Shandong provincial soccer association, said regional governing bodies should adopt more open policies to introduce foreign expertise and know-how from nongovernmental entities in youth cultivation.
The province's Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng has built a youth training base in Brazil, bringing Chinese talent to advanced training in the South American nations.
China’s interest in international football properties was demonstrated earlier this month when China Media Capital (CMC), the Chinese Government-backed investment conglomerate, took a US$400 million stake in the City Football Group (CFG), the owner of football related clubs and businesses including Manchester City FC, New York City FC, Melbourne City FC, and a minority shareholder in Yokohama F. Marinos.
At the time of the purchase, CMC Chairman Li Ruigang stated “football is now at a fascinating and critical stage of development in China.
“We see unprecedented growth opportunities in both its development as an industry, being China’s most watched sport, and its inspirational role bringing people of all ages together with a shared passion.”
“We and our consortium partner CITIC Capital also see this investment as a prime opportunity for furthering the contribution of China to the global football family.”
Images (from top): Youth football coaching in China, Chinese fans at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and President Xi Jinping visits Manchester City FC prior to CMC's purchase of the City Football Group.
9th December 2015 - CHINESE CONSORTIUM STAKE IN CITY FOOTBALL GROUP PART OF A GLOBAL POWER PLAY
24th August 2015 - ADIDAS TO SUPPORT GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA
18th August 2015 - CHINESE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION TO BE INDEPENDENT OF GOVERNMENT
13th March 2015 - CHINA LOOKS TO FOOTBALL SUCCESS AND FUTURE FIFA WORLD CUP HOSTING
4th December 2010 - CHINA INTEREST IN HOSTING 2030 FIFA WORLD CUP
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