Football: China to accelerate youth training push – report


SHANGHAI — China plans to nearly double the number of publicly-run youth football schools this year to 20,000, state media reported on Wednesday, as authorities push ahead with reforms aimed at becoming a football power. Xinhua news agency said China currently has 13,381 “special football schools” — which are typically attached to public primary and middle schools — but the number would be raised this year to 20,000. That marks an acceleration from plans announced two years ago to hit the 20,000 mark by 2020, and 50,000 by 2025. The report was posted on the cental government’s website. President Xi Jinping, a football fan, has previously stated his desire to have his country someday host and win a World Cup, and the government last year released a plan calling for China to become an elite football nation by 2050. The rhetoric is cited as a factor in a flood of money into top-flight Chinese domestic-league teams over the past year, and heavy investment and promotion of the sport nationally. Teams in China’s cash-rich league have broken the Asian transfer record five times over the past year in a foreign-talent buying spree that has brought in Brazilians Oscar, Hulk, Alex Teixeira, and Ramires, Argentina’s Carlos Tevez and Colombia’s Jackson Martinez, among others. That prompted an official backlash last month, with authorities warning of consequences for “excessive” spending on players, cutting the number of foreign players teams can use and vowing to impose salary caps. China has the world’s largest population at 1.3 billion people, but punches well below its weight in international football. Its national team is ranked just 81st globally, one notch below Saint Kitts and Nevis with a population of 50,000. China has qualified only once for the World Cup finals, in 2002, where they failed to win a match or score a goal.