Students warm up before a training session at Evergrande soccer academy in Qingyuan, China. File photo/ Reuters
SHANGHAI: China wants its domestic league to be the best in Asia and “number six in the world” as the country ramps up its ambitions to become a major footballing power by 2050.
The Chinese Super League (CSL) has made headlines in recent years by luring big-name players and coaches from Europe with hefty salaries.
But Chinese players are yet to make an impact with the national team 72nd in the FIFA rankings and only Wu Lei, the Espanyol forward, playing regularly in a major European league.
The Chinese Football Association (CFA) and football-fan President Xi Jinping have big plans, however, and want to host and even one day win the World Cup.
A better CSL is a priority, Li Yuyi, the CFA vice-president and CSL chairman, said, in the hope that will ultimately benefit the national side.
“We will work hard to develop our league to be in the top in Asia and number six in the world,” Xinhua news agency quoted Li as saying.
“It is a general rule that if a team had a good result in the World Cup, it always had many players (who) played in the world-leading professional leagues.”
The CSL had average crowds of 24,000 in 2018, making it the sixth-best supported after the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Mexico's Liga MX, according to Xinhua.
Under Xi, China launched a football development plan in 2015 that aims to get hundreds of millions of children into the sport.
The government will this year begin a pilot scheme introducing football to kindergartens across the world's most populous country.
President Xi Jinping has vowed to make China a footballing force and is prepared to go to great lengths to do it, sending thousands of toddlers to “Football-focused” kindergartens.
Marcello Lippi was back as coach of China on Friday, four months after the World Cup winner quit and following a failed stint by fellow Italian Fabio Cannavaro.
The leaders of China, France, Germany and the EU were set to meet in Paris on Tuesday for “unprecedented” talks on how to improve ties, despite growing jitters over Beijing’s massive investments in Europe.
NATIONS: Russia sent home nearly two-thirds of some 30,000 North Koreans working there during 2018 and China repatriated more than half, but did not specify a figure, according to unpublished reports by Moscow and Beijing to the United Nations Security Council.
Rohit Sharma scored his second hundred in three innings as India maintained their unbeaten record against Pakistan at the World Cup with an 89-run win under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method on Sunday. Sharma’s 140 was the centrepiece of a total of 336-5 that also featured captain Virat Kohli’s 77.
Taunton: West Indies captain Jason Holder admits his spluttering side will be underdogs when they face Bangladesh in a crucial World Cup clash on Monday. Beaten in two of their four group matches, Holder’s team desperately need to secure their second win of the tournament as they chase a semi-final berth.
Imran sent out a series of messages on Twitter to convey that Pakistan should elect to bat unless there was moisture on the pitch.
Pebble Beach: Gary Woodland delivered a gritty back nine display on Saturday, coming up with key par saves in a two-under 69 to stay one stroke in front of Justin Rose heading into the fourth round of the US Open at Pebble Beach. Woodland, a three-time US PGA Tour winner, in search of his first major