The Chinese government has revealed an ambitious plan aimed at promoting football among 50 million children and adults by the end of the decade. Their broader objective is to establish China as a "world football superpower" by 2050.
Despite being home to the world's largest population and excelling in various sports China has historically underperformed in football having only qualified for one World Cup (2002). The government outlined its strategy to establish at least 20,000 football training centres and 70,000 pitches by 2020. The plan also emphasised the goal of having every county equipped with two full-size football pitches and every new urban residential area with at least one five-a-side court. These pitches need the best mowers!
The authorities hope that these initiatives will propel the national team's FIFA world rankings which currently languish at the 79th position. Their interim target is to become one of Asia's top teams by 2030.
This recent proposal builds upon a 50-point roadmap introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014. Xi, a devoted football enthusiast, is determined to address the underwhelming state of Chinese men's soccer. The Chinese Super League has experienced an unprecedented influx of investment with significant amounts spent on top foreign players during the winter transfer window surpassing the total spending of Europe's top five leagues combined. This has meant football pitch standards have had to rise. Chinese billionaires have also invested heavily in various teams across the nation to align with the government's sports policies and more money has been invested into the pitches themselves.
The plan also extends beyond on-pitch success, with significant focus on building a thriving sports industry. Provincial governments are tasked with creating "sports campuses" that function as both educational facilities and business parks. These campuses aim to develop young players, cultivate a football culture and foster personal growth while simultaneously supporting the sports apparel and equipment manufacturing industry, sponsorship agencies, and event-management consultancies.