China has formalised its plan to be a “world football superpower” by 2050 following the unveiling of a detailed strategy to help boost the sport in the country.
President Xi Jingping is a football fan and has previously said he wants China to win a World Cup in the next 15 years.
The country has only every qualified for one appearance at the World Cup finals, in 2002, but the Chinese Football Association (CFA) is planning to do a lot more than just qualify in the coming decades.
The CFA published their plan on Monday which sets short, medium and long-term goals for the country.
One goal is to have 50 million of China’s 1.357 billion people to be playing football by 2020, with 20,000 football training centres and 70,000 pitches by the same deadline.
The plan sets the men’s national team the target of being one of Asia’s highest ranked teams by 2030, while the women’s national team should be considered world class as well.
By 2050, the report says China should be rated as “a first-class football superpower” that “contributes to the international football world”.
The report comes following a mammoth off-season in the Chinese Super League – the country’s top professional tier – in which the transfer record was broken four times by clubs who signed the likes of Alex Teixeira, Ramires, Jackson Martinez and Ezequiel Lavezzi from Europe.
Despite that, there have been concerns for the sport at grassroots level.
Lawrie McKinna – a former coach in the CSL – told Omnisport in February that the game at a local level was not in a good state.
“I was over there a few months ago before Christmas and their grassroots football is a shambles,” McKinna said.
“I had a meeting with Beijing football and they had 60 clubs registered. The population is 20 million, I think, and on the Central Coast [in Australia, population approx. 330,000] we have 23 [clubs] just here.”