Wednesday 1 March 2017

China's Plan To Become A Football Powerhouse


China now has a glittering cast of football players and coaches.

The transfer window which closed at midnight on Tuesday was the most significant in Asian history.

We saw 25-year-old Oscar move from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG for £60 million and Carlos Tevez transfer from Boca Juniors to Shanghai Shenhua for £71 million, making them the two highest paid players in the world.

They joined the likes of Ramires, Gervinho, and Jackson Martinez in a league which has captured the attention of the world.

As well as the big-name signings on the pitch the Chinese Super League is now home to some of the top managers.

Sven Goran Ericsson has been here for several years now but he has been joined by Andres Villas Boas, Gus Poyet and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

It now seems entirely credible that Wayne Rooney could be next.

Mark Dreyer who has been covering the Chinese Super League for ten years told ITV News: “Two years ago it would have been unthinkable, now the fact that Ronaldo’s agent is having to deny stories about him being offered huge sums, the fact that Rooney’s agent is actually travelling to China to see if these offers are real at all shows you that a move, if not probable at this stage, is definitely possible.”

Almost every day during the transfer window there was another top European player linked with the CSL, and some astronomical figures were being quoted.

Diego Costa was rumoured to have been offered a £30 million a year deal to join Tianjin Quanjian but turned it down after his team mates apparently persuaded to stay.

All of these multi-million pound deals are being bank rolled by massive corporate investment.

Most of the teams bear the names of their sponsor such as SIPG in Shanghai and Evergrande in Guangzhou. And then there’s the state-sponsored teams like Tianjin TEDA.

It’s nothing new to say that football is big business but here in China they want to go bigger.

At the behest of President Xi Jingping a ten-year blueprint has been introduced to make the country a footballing powerhouse.

The ultimate aim being to host and win a world cup.

The eye watering sums being spent on superstar players and managers are being matched pound for pound by the government on youth football.

This year the Education Ministry announced a plan to raise the number of schools with football academies to 20,000 by the end of this year, up from 13,382 in 2016.

Every single school in the country was ordered to include football into their curriculum with a target set to get 30 million students playing the game by 2018.

There’s not a football culture in China, that’s what they are trying to create, and while the headlines are dominated by Oscar and Tevez there is something more enduring being built here.

The aim is success through mass participation and with a population of 1.4 billion there’s clearly huge scope.

In ten years time China wants to have it’s own generation of soccer superstars.



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