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China’s ambitious soccer plan

By Pu Yang Tuesday, 12 Apr 2016 18:00

China will face a long and hard way to secure a place at the 2018 World Cup as Team China will face Iran, Republic of Korea, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Syria in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers from this September to the 5th September, 2017. Considering the fierce rivalry in World Cup dream pursuits among Asian countries, China nowadays finds it more and more necessary to catch up with leading soccer powers in Asia, such as Japan and Australia.

In order to stand as a soccer powerhouse in Asia in the near future, the 14-page “Medium-and-Long-Term Plan of Chinese Football Development” was unveiled by a joint committee of the State General Administration of Sports, the Chinese Football Association, the Ministry of Education and the National Development and Reform Commission.

Under the new Plan, it appears that China is more interested in continuously growing the sport of soccer nationwide other than exploring quick success in soccer through excessive spending spree on proven players and coaches.  

The Plan stipulates a three-step development strategy in developing soccer in the country, covering a time span of 35 years from 2016 to 2050.

Initially, the Plan calls for more soccer pitches to be constructed the following few years. In addition, participation, especially among young people, needs to be driven at the same time. China is expected to have over 20,000 soccer academies and 30 million students from elementary and middle schools playing the sport by 2020. This means over 60,000 pitches will be newly built or reestablished nationwide within the next four years.

In addition to youth soccer, the Plan also outlines the necessity to develop grassroots soccer tournaments in 50 various cities across the country in order to drive the participation of the sport. In this case particularly, China Media Capital has already launched a unit to tap grassroots soccer in China.

The Plan also encourages more Chinese professional clubs to get listed on stock market following the steps of Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande FC. We’ve already seen more and more interest from commercial powerhouse in money-backing CSL clubs in recent years, which is highlighted by e-commerce giants Suning Group’s takeover of former Jiangsu Sainty FC. With Guangzhou Evergarnde’s recent successes in AFC Champions League, China’s national team is expected to make more presence as a top Asian team by 2030 in accordance with the Plan.

Furthermore, the Plan also proposes China is expected to be a top soccer nation in the world by the 2050. To achieve the goal, the country needs to further drive participation and develop soccer-related culture across the country.

Overall, the Plan calls for preferential policy support for the soccer development in the country, which includes beneficial fiscal and financial regulations, land supply, favorable planning and tax reduction, which will hopefully pave the way for continuous development for Chinese soccer over a fairly long period.

Although the Plan gives hope for Chinese soccer and Team China, many argue that it remains critical whether the plans will be carried out practically on many cases. Moreover, before we can conclude the ambitious “Medium-And-Long-Term Development Plan for Chinese Soccer”, what is sure is that Team China still face long road to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.



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