China's plan to move from being 83

Updated: 2015-03-20 11:07

By Jack Freifelder(China Daily)

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Foreign players

Cameron noted that the quality of the foreign players going to China has been on a "strong upward spiral" in recent years.

"Players such as Didier Drogba, Dario Conca and Tim Cahill are of a very high standard, and of better technical ability than domestic players," Wilson wrote. "There is no doubt of their positive influence on the development of Chinese football players."

And he added that "big name foreign players are not the long term solution. China needs to develop its own [game]."

Rowan Simons, chairman of China ClubFootball FC, the first amateur football network in China with foreign interests, said the performance of China's national teams has "always been important," but the plan announced this week by China's State Council "elevates football to more than just a sport".

"Achieving success in football is now a national objective and this is something seldom seen in the world," Simons told China Daily.

He said many of the goals laid out by China's cabinet "are achievable" but some "big questions" remain.

"The plan is filled with sensible instructions that are all basic actions that China must address if football is to flourish," he wrote in an e-mail. "It is easy to say that the number of football schools will rise from 5,000 to 20,000, but much harder to build the entire grassroots infrastructure around those schools. It is in this area that ClubFootball specializes."

Established in August 2001, China ClubFootball promotes the sport of soccer by hosting training events and summer skills camps for Chinese youth and adults interested in learning about the game.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) and the Beijing Administration of Industry and Commerce also license the group's activities.

Simons, who is the author of the March 2009 book, Bamboo Goalposts: One Man's Quest to Teach the People's Republic of China to Love Football, said the growth in the professional leagues is certainly a positive factor. But importing top-flight players and coaches is not a prerequisite to helping the Chinese national team, he said.

"The plan talks about building lasting club brands and promises to end the crazy practice of team names changing with the sponsor," Simons told China Daily. "Improvements are being driven by the need to perform well on the pitch. After years where victory was not necessarily the objective, this is a very encouraging development."

Some clubs are even beginning to mimic Europeans clubs in some marketing and promotional efforts, he said.

"These are all essential components of a thriving football industry, but they cannot produce national team success," Simons wrote. "For that long-term goal, there first needs to be a massive increase in the population of young players receiving professional coaching and regular challenging competition.