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China looks to football success and future FIFA World Cup hosting

China looks to football success and future FIFA World Cup hosting
March 13, 2015

With Chinese football having enjoyed some success at the recent AFC Asian Cup, Chinese President Xi Jinping has ushered in a reform plan for a new phase of development of the game.

Beset by years of administrative corruption and under achievement on the field, the Chinese national team’s topping of their group stage and quarter final exit to eventual winners Australia at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup has given some cause for optimism.

President Xi, who has openly expressed his interest in the game and a desire to see a stronger national football team several times in recent years, last week passed a guideline calling for football to be promoted in schools and for market reform of China’s professional leagues.

The China Daily has reported that “the malady of Chinese soccer is self-evident.

“Two years ago, several senior officials and football referees in the Chinese Football Association … were found guilty of corruption and power abuses.

“Dozens of players were (also) charged for manipulating matches and gambling.”

Blaming “the rigid sports administrative system” for leading “China's professional league astray”, the China Daily article also cited the Chinese Super League’s focus “on quick success and instant rewards.”

The China Daily editorial also criticized China's football clubs for importing aging stars and high profile coaches from Europe and South America at the expense of local talent.

While Guangzhou Evergrande won the AFC Asian Champion League in 2013, the China Daily was highly critical of the level of Chinese football.

Comparing China’s slipping in the FIFA World Rankings (from as high as 37th in 1998 to 83rd as of March 2015), the China Daily contrasted how neighbours South Korea and Japan had progressed their football in the last decade, praising their "decades of relentless efforts."

The China Daily continued "there needs to be a detailed action plan on how the reforms are to be implemented if they are to have the desired effect in cleansing and raising the level of the sport in China.

"The Government also needs to increase its input in soccer in schools and at the grassroots level.

"The number of young footballers in China is even less than in Vietnam and Thailand (while) only three to four clubs out of the dozens of big clubs in China have comprehensive youth training programs.

"Few parents want their kids to play soccer because of the corruption in the sport (and) if parents cannot be convinced that a soccer-playing child has a future, there is no future for Chinese soccer.

"The Chinese Football Association also needs to be transformed into a responsible supervisor and service provider, instead of the almighty power it is now.

"This will only be achieved if the sports administration system in China abandons its gold-medal mindset, so it pays more attention to promoting sports among the people."

With President Xi having agreed the 'overall football reform plan', it would appear China is again considering a bid to host the FIFA World Cup.

China last considered a bid, for the 2030 FIFA World Cup, in 2010, but the idea was dropped due to lack of Government support.

With hosting of FIFA World Cups in 2026 and beyond yet to be decided, opinion in China is split between those who feel China could follow the example of Japan and South Korea in 2002, with both nations using the event to raise the standards of their game at all levels.

However, others fear that the low potential of the national team would take gloss off being the host country.




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