China aims to turn its national soccer team into one of the world’s best by 2050, state media said on Tuesday, as the country continues to map out ways of revitalising a sport damaged by match-fixing scandals and poor performances on the pitch.
China has worked since 2009 to promote grassroots football and crush illegal gambling syndicates but admitted last year its efforts were still lagging.
The latest plan, released by the powerful planning body the National Development and Reform Commission and reported by the official People’s Daily, splits China’s soccer ambitions into three phases.
The first phase aims to get 30 million school children regularly playing football by 2020 and by 2030 China hopes its men’s national team will be one of Asia’s top sides.
In the third phase to 2050, China will “go all out to realise the goals of being the top class soccer nation and all-round development of Chinese soccer”.
President Xi Jinping is an avid football fan and has spoken in the past of “three wishes” for China; to qualify for another World Cup since their first and only appearance at the 2002 finals, to host a World Cup, and to eventually win one.
Ranked 81st in the FIFA rankings, China scraped through to the final phase of 2018 World Cup qualifying with a nervy 2-0 win over Qatar last month.
China reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in Australia in January 2015 after winning all three of their group matches, a performance the country’s anti-corruption watchdog called a direct result of a gambling crackdown.
Last month, Dalian Wanda Group, China’s biggest commercial property developer and an active buyer of global entertainment and sports companies, became the first Chinese top level sponsor of FIFA.
Via: The Star Malaysia