The sorry state of Chinese football is getting an instant injection of cash to lift the game’s future prospects. Dalian Wanda, a real estate company that was also the former sponsor of the local Dalian Shide football team, has announced an agreement with the Chinese Football Association to provide 500 million RMB over the next three years to develop the youth game in China.
The half billion worth of support will be used to sponsor a Future Stars program to send 100 youth players to train and play overseas for two to three years in countries that’ve dominated the World Cup scene, including leagues in Spain, Germany, Italy and Brazil, where the first batch of players were already sent late last year.
The money will also be spent on upgrading the domestic leagues, inviting foreign coaches for the national teams, and addressing refereeing issues.
In other words, China is still doing the same thing its done since the notion of a New China was first bandied about a century ago: China is weak in governmental/economic/military/language expertise, and thus must invite ‘Foreign Experts’ to train locals, while sending the country’s best and brightest abroad to do the international student thing.
The extravagance of the sum put forth to boost Chinese football is testament to the fact that the game has more or less reached its absolute nadir in China. Its men’s team failed to qualify for the past two World Cups (something not even the North Korean team can claim), and also lost recently to Oman, ensuring that they’ll be on vacation next year when other teams will compete in the London Olympics.
Even the ladies are stinking up the joint, with the women’s team having failed to qualify for this year’s Women’s World Cup in Germany (again, something not even North Korea can claim), a disappointing fall from their once formidable status as Women’s World Cup finalists in 1999.
China Daily reports that the game has fallen into such disarray due to the negligence of the youth game that’s only now being paid attention to, with the country only having approximately 7,000 under-18 players registered with the CFA at the end of 2010, in contrast to Japan’s 500,000.
The chairman of Dalian Wanda Wang Jianlin pledged to renew the three-year commitment to Chinese football if results were apparent in three years’ time:
“I have two standards to assess the result of our cooperation,” the 56-year-old said after signing the contract with the CFA. “One is the participation level of teenagers in the sport. If China’s soccer population increases to 700,000 thousand or 800,000 in three years, then our cooperation will be successful.
The second standard is the attendance rate at the domestic league. I hope our cooperation will reawaken people’s passion for soccer. If we make these changes in three years, then we can talk about further cooperation, but if there’s no change, I think we will be done there.”
Regardless of what the reason might be, whether it’s intense corruption at various levels of the sport, lack of protein in Chinese diets leading to insufficient footballing bodies, being from a physically non-aggressive bookworm culture that places no value on exercise (remember, the Tiger Mother she-beast said A’s were required in everything besides drama and PE), we applaud Dalian Wanda’s proactive money-throwing at the current situation.
That is, of course, only if this 500 million RMB chunk of change doesn’t magically get siphoned off by everyone and their second uncle before it does any bit of good for Chinese football’s future.