Football training guru Sven-Göran Eriksson has voiced his utmost confidence in China’s future in the world’s most popular sport, stating: “Maybe 10 or 15 years ahead, I’m sure China’s national team will compete well [enough] to win the World Cup.”
Eriksson currently coaches the local team Shanghai SIPG (aka the Red Eagles), but his long and successful career and reputation lend his prediction an air of credibility. More than a week before the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil, the coach prophesied:
“They are not going to win the World Cup, absolutely not. If they get to the quarter-final or more it’s a success. Anything more than the quarter-final would be a tremendous success. There are many teams that are better than England. I don’t think they can win the World Cup.”
A few short weeks later the English team was eliminated by the end of the first round earning only one point after playing three games.
This time, the Swedish coach is backing up his prediction by citing government investment as the reason for football’s bright future in China, The Guardian reports.
“It’s not only the top of football in China that’s getting bigger and richer, also the Chinese clubs are opening football schools more or less every day – and young boys and girls will start to play football,” Eriksson said.
Chinese football schools won’t operate like just any old training program. Young footballers will be studying how to play from specially-designed interactive textbooks as well. While he seems confident in the country’s home-grown talent, if he had his way, Eriksson would add Wayne Rooney to his roster for good measure.
Eriksson’s support coincides with a national movement to bolster the country’s young football talent and boost the sport’s popularity. Cai Zhenhua, president of the Chinese Football Association, elaborated on the goals of this systematic reform saying that “along with our long-term plan to improve the environment of soccer and the popularization of the sport, China, as a big country, should bid to host the World Cup.” These aspirations also reflect the wishes of soccer super fan President Xi Jinping.
Bidding to host the tournament will bring China into competition with Canada, Mexico, Colombia and potentially many more countries vying for the prestige of hosting the next eligible FIFA World Cup in 2026. Though Beijing likely isn’t too worried having proved themselves quite adept at this sort of thing, even overcoming some significant obstacles.
By Matthew Patel