Minister vows to kick national soccer team into shape

Editor’s note: Three ministerial-level officials meet with the media in the “Minister’s Passage” on Sunday after a plenary session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

China’s sports minister has promised to end the long-running slump in the men’s national soccer program, starting with a crackdown on corruption and a campaign to get more young people involved.

With the decline in Team China’s international performances raising concerns across the country, the country’s football development, particularly among men, needs to be overhauled, with an emphasis on fighting corruption within the governing body and an emphasis on youth development at its core , said Gao Zhidan, director of the General Administration of Sports of China.

“For a long time, the development of the men’s football program has failed to meet the expectations of the party leadership and fans, with the lackluster performances of the men’s national team and the chaos in the sector being the focus of concern across the country,” the deputy to the 14th National People’s Congress said in interviews on Sunday a plenary session in the Great Hall of the People.

“The development of world-class skills in the three collective big ball games (soccer, volleyball and basketball) represents a true global sporting power. But this is where we currently fall far behind the world.”

The sluggish development of Chinese men’s football, hampered by corruption scandals involving top officials and coaches, was underscored by the men’s team’s failure for the FIFA World Cup five straight years and was a pressing issue. The country is striving to realize its ambition to become a global sports powerhouse by 2035, a national goal highlighted in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).

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The latest target of the Football Administration’s anti-graft watchdog investigation, Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan, was recently under investigation for alleged breaches of discipline and the law, according to an announcement by the Central Committee for Disciplinary Inspection of the Communist Party of China’s National Supervisory Commission.

Chen’s investigations are linked to Li Tie, the former men’s team head coach who was arrested in November by the national disciplinary inspection team and the Hubei Supervisory Commission on corruption allegations related to his work with the national team and his previous tenure as coach of the now-defunct domestic league club, Wuhan cell. No details have been released yet.

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