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China's Push To Become The Next Global Soccer Powerhouse

China is not a nation you’d list when thinking about the world’s footballing elite. But President Xi Jinping is hoping to change that. Last year, China unveiled a plan to “become a footballing juggernaut by 2050”. The country is spending more money to attract players, including some of the game’s biggest names, to move to China.

It has also been fully investing in soccer schools like the Evergrande Football School to groom students to become the next generation of soccer superstars.

Why the Move?

China has always ranked near the bottom of the pack when it comes to international play. It has only qualified for a single World Cup. So, why the sudden interest in improving their standards of play? Part of the reason behind the push is President Xi. He has made it a goal of his presidency to improve men’s soccer.

According to a recent Time article, “Xi’s proclamation has spurred unprecedented investment in the Chinese Super League, which spent a net $300 million in the winter transfer window on top foreign players — more than Europe’s top five leagues combined. Chinese billionaires, clamoring to appear supportive of government policy, have poured money into teams around the country. Corrupt players and officials have also been purged in an effort to clean up the sport’s image following a raft of high-profile betting scandals.”


Other potential reasons for the push include potentially wanting to improve China’s image around the world, especially when it comes to their propaganda machine. As a universally accepted sport, soccer would be a good vehicle for improving the world’s perception of the nation.

Potential Problems

While a lot of money is being spent to make this dream happen, it’s also getting some push-back in China itself. Parents don’t want their children spending all their time on soccer in lieu of academics, but homegrown talent is truly the best way to drive a thriving soccer program. China can only offer millions of dollars to foreign soccer stars for so long before the money potentially starts to dry up. Already economists are failing to see any sort of potential return on the exorbitant amounts of spending.

China should be able to make some strides in improving their game, but the future will determine if they can actually become a major player. China's hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup already appear all but over as they've managed only two points from five matches in the third round of AFC qualifying. 

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