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National Drive Behind Chinese Football

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Chinese soccer unleashed its final charge towards the Russian World Cup as the draw of last 12 in World Cup Asian zone qualification was unveiled.

It’s the first time for Chinese team to reach the final stage of qualification since China’s maiden appearance in 2002 World Cup, so now the glitter of another World Cup attendance is sparked in the country, where renders a nationwide support for the sport.

Though still it does look like a tough mission ahead of Chinese team, which had secured a spot in last 12 in a dramatic way, Chinese favour and support for the national team has never been dwindling.


To Li Shuyi, executive deputy director at the inter-ministerial joint conference office specializing in the country’s football development, believed a lot more needs to be done in order to make virtual progress in the sport.

Li is calling to build a world-class backup system in Chinese national team operation. “We need to have not only professional players, but also need to have professional supporting staff for national team,” said Li. “We need to have the match information collected and analyzed and we need to have our players’ physiques guaranteed. So a professional supporting team is quite necessary to ensure the national team running well in the forthcoming competitions.”

A consensus between clubs and Chinese Football Association (CFA) must be maintained in national team build-up to Li’s point of view. “Players are engaged in clubs training and league matches all year around. Playing for the national team is just a small part for professional players, so the clubs are encouraged to reward their players selected into the national team, which could not provide them the equivalent payments,” added Li.

Chinese Super League (CSL) company chairman Ma Chengquan acknowledged that the five-year contract of league broadcasting rights worth eight billion yuan (1.25 billion US dollars) is an encouraging signing for the clubs and helps them to establish confidence on the league development.

Obviously, the clubs would receive much more dividend in the next five years supported by the lucrative contract. Ma promised to set up a reasonable league agenda in support of the national team’s training and preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

“Of course, we need to keep the league running in normal, but this won’t set back the national team construction,” Ma said.


Chinese football has gone through remarkable reforms since last year. The CFA was liberated from the supervision of State General Administration of Sports. The CFA would be allowed more self governance on financial, personnel management and international exchange freedom.

“The CFA ought to establish the restrictive and coordinated system among policy making, executive authority, and supervision,” Li suggested.

China had embarked the youth football development program, aiming to dig deep on grassroots football. According to the plan unveiled in March last year, schools specializing in football will expand from the current number of 5,000 to 20,000 by 2020 and further increase to 50,000 by 2025.

Li endorsed the measures on pushing forward the football population, especially among youngsters.

“That requires the support and participation from more sections from the society, not only the CFA and Ministry of Education,” Li stressed.

German football coach Eckhard Krautzun, who had guided Chinese U19 national team in 2005, told Xinhua last month that he believed China would probably rank top five in Asia, supported by its huge population, financial investment and outstanding organization.

Spaniard Gregorio Manzano, coach of CSL club Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, said that the development of youth football was the initial step for the country’ s football rejuvenation. “More patience is asked for now and we’ll see a revitalized Chinese team in the future,” Manzano said.


China locked a berth in the final round of Asian qualifiers after they beat Qatar in their last group match and thanks to a series of favorable results from other groups at the same time. But the seemingly accidental advancement came not just for the sake of luck.

China had been absent from the final phase of World Cup Asian qualifiers since 2004. The entry this time resulted from the country’s ambitious football reform.

China unveiled a plan in March last year to improve the country’s status on the world football map. The plan aims at building up effective management, professional operating clubs and top-level leagues, strengthening the national teams, and promoting the grassroots football.

“The footballers cherish their professional careers, while the clubs are willing to pay the players decently,” Li said. “Chinese football is not competitive enough internationally now, but we must set a goal to fight for and make a pragmatic agenda to follow up.”

The CSL clubs had spent an unprecedented 317 million euros during the winter transfer window to sign top footballers from worldwide and the league now is much more competitive and attractive to fans.

“Club’s progress would lead to a stronger national team,” Li said.

According to Li, CFA president Cai Zhenhua had written a thanks letter to clubs for offering national team players after Chinese team reached the last 12 of Asian qualifiers.

“The letter said that the national team represents the glory of the whole country, embracing the expectation of Chinese people,” Li said.

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