China is chasing the dream of winning the World Cup and develops a plan to establish 18 football cities

China has revealed plans to build 18 “football cities” over the next five years, as the country makes another attempt to sweep across the global elite for sports. A report by the British newspaper “The Times” indicated that China, despite its many economic, military and sporting achievements, has long been frustrated by the poor performance of its national football team, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002. The last time China competed in football at the Olympic Games was in 2008 when it was the host country, while it only qualified for the games in Seoul in 1988. Chinese President Xi Jinping – an ardent football fan – expressed the hope that his country could qualify for the World Cup in the not-too-distant future, which would enhance national pride and the “Chinese dream”. As part of its efforts to this end, the General Administration of Sports of China announced an ambitious plan under which the administration and the CFA will invest money in each city, with annual investment from local governments to build football cities across the country. By 2025, every soccer city will have two professional soccer clubs, a national-level youth training center, several local-level centers, and one soccer field for every 10,000 residents, the administration said, while ensuring half of the city’s youth are involved in sports. The administration added that the cities “will create a favorable environment in which the whole community will care about the development and support of football.” The report pointed out that China has already invested heavily in and reformed its national football program in the hope that it will produce a national team skilled enough to compete with the best teams in the world, where foreign coaches and players have been appointed, and the stars of the Chinese Super League, the highest level in professional football, are paid exorbitantly. However, the country is still far from competing in major competitions. By 2030, the new football cities will send top athletes to the national team “on an ongoing basis”, and thus become the national “source” of football talent, in the words of the administration. By 2035, the administration is looking forward to football becoming the hallmark of China’s transition as a sporting power. Moreover, the administration envisioned that “the major cities will lead the country in achieving the comprehensive development of football, becoming a popular sport in which the fans participate, and there will be generation after generation of the best football talents, and the whole society will have a healthy and joyful football-related culture.”

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