By Andrew Warshaw
April 12 – China, which is already spending like crazy to lure a string of big-name overseas players to its domestic Super League, has announced plans to transform the country into a world football power by 2050.
The Chinese Football Association wants to have 50 million adults and children playing by 2020 in addition to having at least 20,000 football schools and 70,000 pitches set up across the country. More than 30 million primary and secondary school age students will be encouraged to play regularly.
China’s burgeoning domestic league is investing millions to attract a number of high-profile signings, its recent transfer window expenditure eclipsing every other league in the world with the likes of Chelsea’s Ramires, Roma’s Gervinho and Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez for whom Guangzhou Evergrande, winners of the Asian Champions League in 2013 and 2015, paid $45.8 million.
But the national men’s team is ranked an embarrassingly poor 81st in the world and has only once qualified for the World Cup, in 2002, a tournament hosted by regional neighbours South Korea and Japan who have advanced far more quickly than China in football terms.
The Chinese FA’s blueprint, revealed on its website, includes having one football pitch for every 10,000 people by 2030, by which time it hopes to raise the quality of the national team with the ultimate goal of becoming “a first-class football superpower” that “contributes to the international football world” by 2050.
Chinese football has been hit by a string of corruption issues in recent years, with 33 players and officials banned in 2013 for match-fixing but stringent efforts have been made to clean up the sport as the country targets staging the World Cup sometime in the 2030s.
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