China has unveiled an ambitious plan to overhaul soccer management and enhance the country’s performance in the sport in the international arena.
No less that President Xi Jinping, a big fan of the sport, has spearheaded the revamp by asking the leading group of central reform which he chairs to come up with a plan that will breathe new life into Chinese soccer.
The result is a 50-point plan that seeks to reform every aspect of the sport, including the management system, professional clubs, professional leagues, national teams and grassroots soccer players, the Global Times reported.
One of its long-term goals is for the country to host and qualify for the World Cup finals.
“Revitalizing soccer is a must to build China into a sports powerhouse as part of the Chinese dream. It is also what the people desire,” the central reform leading group said.
The plan calls for the separation of the Chinese Football Association from the government sports regulator, the General Administration for Sport, and granting the former the power to independently determine its manpower and financial requirements.
The association will be made up of professional soccer players and representatives from the sports authorities under the State Council to ensure the body’s professionalism, the newspaper said.
Authorities plan to substantially increase the number of young people playing soccer through the establishment of special “soccer schools”, whose number will be increased to 20,000 after five years and 50,000 in 10 years.
Currently, there are 5,000 such schools across the country.
Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based sports commentator, said the move may signal the beginning of an overall reform of China’s sport management that will reduce administrative interference and allow more room for the sector’s professional development.
“There has been heavy government intervention in the sector and professionals have little say in development. The new plan will allow professionals to build a system consistent with soccer development,” Wang told the Global Times.
A national lottery for the Chinese football leagues will also be established, with revenue going toward the sport’s development.
Although considered an Olympic powerhouse, China still struggles in the world’s soccer rankings.
China’s men’s team, currently ranked 83rd by the International Football Federation, has qualified for the World Cup only once in 2002.
The women’s team has yet to surpass its achievement as runner-up in the 1999 World Cup.
A history of corruption, bureaucratic red tape and a weak youth training program have been blamed for the country’s lackluster achievements in the sport.
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