China going 'crazy' to become superpower in football

China going 'crazy' to become superpower in football
 Pushed by the burning ambition of President Xi Jinping to make China a superpower in football, the country is going "crazy" hiring top foreign players and coaches at whopping amounts to make a strong pitch for winning the world cup.

China could win the World Cup within the next 20 years, said former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson who led UK from 2001 to 2006.

Eriksson, 68, the currently head coach of leading Chinese Super League (CSL) team Shanghai SIPG, believes everything is now in place for China to succeed.

"This season it's gone crazy, totally crazy. The president of the country is pushing for football. And if the government push for something in China things will happen," Eriksson told BBC.

Driven by Xi, who has emerged as the most powerful leader in the country after Mao, China is investing billions of pounds to hire foreign coaches and players to create a football buzz in the country.

While international players hardly looked at China in the past, currently 50 of the top players this year signed up for Chinese clubs with money totalling to 122 million pounds which eventually will enable CSL join the football super league.

Thirteen of the 16 football coaches hired by the country to train millions of schools children are foreigners.

According to the latest government plan to develop the sport, China will have more than 70,000 soccer fields by the end of 2020, in the country, state-run Global Times reported today.

China hopes football will be played by over 50 million people by 2020.
The report said the growth in the CSL has seen some of the biggest names in world football sign for Chinese clubs in recent years.

The top stars who joined CSL include Brazil international Ramires who joined Jiangsu Suning from Chelsea for 25 million pounds, while Argentina's Ezequiel Lavezzi left Paris St-Germain for Hebei China Fortune for a reported fee of 23.5 millin pounds.

"It's going crazy right now. We have a saying that the only two players who are not coming to China right now are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi," said Romain Woo, the founder of Van Hao sports agency.

"The other names? It's all highly possible. I know most of the big agents in Europe and they are all trying to push their clients to China right now if they're not having a good time in Europe," he said

"Three of my players got chances to go to Football Club Copenhagen, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The problem is that they are way too important to their clubs here and they don't care about how big the transfer fee is," he said.

China's focus has turned on to football even though it excelled at the Olympics and Paralympics after its men's team have only qualified for one football World Cup, in 2002 mainly bogged down by corruption in the clubs.

But Eriksson believes that record will change and says winning the tournament is a realistic target.

According to an announcement released by the National Development and Reform Commission together with the sports and education ministries, by the end of 2013, China had around 10,000 soccer fields in "relatively good condition," which is much fewer compared with major soccer nations.

China has been prioritising soccer as part of the country's physical education.
The number of schools specialising in soccer will reach 20,000, and over 30 million primary and high school students will regularly play soccer by 2020.

Another 20,000 public soccer fields will be built, the announcement said.
The men's team, now ranked 81st in the world, qualified for one World Cup final in 2002, and the team recently qualified for the third round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers.
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