Saturday, 30 April 2016

China: A new emerging football power?

   A few months ago while waiting to be received by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China; I asked a senior official of the President's office as to what were the President's hobbies? He replied that the President liked to watch Football games on TV in his very rare spare time and wished to see a Chinese team play in the World Cup finals.The officials reply stayed in my mind till recently when a Guardian newspaper report on 'football in China' caught my eye. What did the report say about the efforts of the Chinese to become a leading football power-house?
   *China already has built the world's largest football academy, which will be followed by 20,000 specialist football academies.
   * By 2020 China will have 70,000 football pitches with 30m students playing regularly.
   * Presently, the Chinese National Team is ranked 81st by FIFA out of 204 playing nations.
   * Chinese State Owned Enterprises [SOEs] and Real Estate firms are bank-rolling Chinese Clubs to enroll foreign players by spending up to US$373million annually.
    * 31 top Brazilian football stars have moved to China in 2014-15.
    * Top Brazilian coaches such as Scolari, Luxemburgo and Menezes have moved to coach in China.
    * Reports suggest that Chinese businessmen are buying into top foreign football clubs. Jack Ma has reportedly offered US$450m for a 70% share in AC Milan. Club owner Silvio Berlusconi, a former Italian PM, is considering the offer. A similar offer has reportedly been made for a 13% stake in Manchester City.
    * So far China has only qualified only once for World Cup finals in 2002. BBC reports that all is not well in Chinese football, with the National Football League hit by scandal with 33 players banned for 'match-fixing' last year.
   * So are we going to see the rise of another football super-power? Let us see. Keep watching this space !!        

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