by LIAM RICHNER
In 2013, Chinese players and officials were found guilty of match-fixing, with the country struggling to make a mark on world football.
Fast forward three years, and the nation is in full flow of it’s rebuilding job. The Chinese Super League is attracting top players such as Ramires, Jackson Martinez and Demba Ba, and attendances records are being broken every week.
The country’s president, Xi Jinping, is said to be a football enthusiast. He, along with the Chinese federation, have released short, medium and long term targets, to try and get around 50 million children and adults playing the sport by 2020. The country also has an ambition to be within the top 1o ranking teams by 2050.
It’s a bold move for a country that have only ever qualified for a Fifa World Cup once, back in 2002.
But bold doesn’t mean they won’t succeed. The Super League is at an all time high with the calibre of players on show. This could help improve the state of the national side. Playing alongside the Gervinho’s and Lavezzi’s will only spur the domestic players on to get better.
China currently sit 81st in the Fifa world rankings, behind the likes of Haiti, Panama and Benin. This tells you how much work is needed if they are to be a ‘world superpower’ in 34 years times.
But the CFA are going the right way about it with the proposal to make more facilities accessible around the country. Reports claim that by 2030, there will be one pitch per 10,000 people living in China.
More of the domestic players may also want to venture out towards Europe and look to play world-class club football in attempts to make the national team stronger. Playing time in Germany, Spain or England would prove valuable experience of playing against the world’s best players week in, week out.
Neighbours Japan have benefited from the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki moving to Europe; playing for the likes of Dortmund, Milan and Leicester City. They have taken the assets they have learnt back to their homeland and as a result, the Japanese national side is now one of, if not, the strongest Asian country at present.
But Japan haven’t gone through reforming their footballing system domestically. Neither have South Korea. Both these sides between them have qualified for the World Cup 14 times, compared to China’s one. But imagine if domestically their leagues was two of the strongest in the world. That would potentially make them ‘powerhouses’ like Germany and Spain, the current and former World Cup winners.
China are actually attempting to replicate the European way, and because of that, we are seeing more top players play over there. Yes the salaries these players earn could be a separate issue, but the country are at least trying to create a system where players can nurture their skills and becoming world class.
This country will eventually move up the footballing pyramid towards the elitist end, alongside the Germans and Argentines. In a country with some much success in Olympic and Paralympic sports, and the wealth it holds, it would be a matter of time before they caught up in footballing terms.
It’s just a matter of when the plans are finally executed which remains the question. Is 2050 too near a target? We will soon see.