China draws up action plan to boost World Cup ambitions


Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping holds a soccer ball during a visit to Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland, February 19, 2012. REUTERS / David Moir

China will build new training centers for young people and encourage “key cities” to establish at least two professional male and female football clubs, he said on Friday, seeking to improve playing standards and become l one of the main world powers in sport.

President Xi Jinping, a football fan, has pledged to make China a “football power” and wants the country to first host and then win a World Cup before 2050.

The General Administration of Sports of China is committed to learning from domestic and foreign experiences to encourage participation, improve governance and build infrastructure, targeting at least one football field for every 10,000 people by 2025.

The administration said it would offer political support to bring its leagues to “top notch” Asian standards by 2030.

He also pledged to promote professional women’s football and encourage a “diversified investment model” involving public and private companies, social organizations and individuals.

Despite the country’s ambitions, the men’s national team struggled, qualifying only once for the World Cup final in 2002 and now languishing as low as 77 in the FIFA rankings, behind smaller nations like Cape Verde.

Club football has also struggled with loyalty eroded by ownership changes and rebranding.

“Much of China’s ongoing football reform agenda is well-intentioned and even makes perfect sense, on paper, from a football’s point of view,” said Cameron Wilson, founding editor of the Wild East Football website, which follows Chinese football.

“But these reforms are unlikely to significantly improve the fortunes of Chinese football, as they fail to address the deep and systematic problems in China that prevent football from developing organically and at the grassroots, as it does in China, successful football countries, ”he added.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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