China abolishes government football body

Beijing, Feb 25 (IANS) China has abolished the government’s football management body and returned control of the game to the Chinese Football Association (CFA).

The Chinese Football Administrative Center, one of 21 sports departments of China’s General Administration of Sport, was abolished last week to give CFA more latitude in making decisions, said a CFA official on Wednesday, reports Xinhua.

The CFA now has autonomy in personnel management, pay rate setting, football marketing and selection of national team coaches.

The separation of football from government control came one year after a top-level team on deepening China’s reforms, as led by President Xi Jinping, approved plans to reform the sport.

“We must develop and revitalize soccer to ensure we are a strong nation of sports,” Xi, an avid football fan, told a meeting of the Central Reform Leading Group in March 2015.

China must overcome their “defective system”, which has impeded the development of the game, and provide better “institutional guarantees” for their progress, said the statement issued after the meeting.

In stark contrast to their huge success in many other sports, China have been struggling in football for decades and only ever qualified for the World Cup once, in 2002.

Xi specifically declared that hosting, qualifying for, and winning a World Cup were national goals.

Companies and businessmen have rushed to put money into football since China approved a 50-point plan last year, including building thousands of football academies, cultivating domestic talent and separating the CFA from the government.

Chinese Super League clubs have spent an unprecedented 317 million euros during the current winter transfer window, which closes on Friday, to bring in foreign stars, many of them internationals.

The Chinese transfer fee record has been smashed four times during the period, culminating in Jiangsu Suning paying Shakhtar Donetsk 50 million euros for Alex Teixeira.

Heavy spending didn’t result in good scorelines as megabucks Chinese clubs had a disappointing opening night in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.

Defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande, led by World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, drew 0-0 with Pohang Steelers of South Korea, while Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Shanghai SIPG lost to Melbourne Victory 2-1.

On Tuesday, Shandong Luneng, guided by former Brazil coach Mano Menezes, edged past Japan’s Sandrecce Hiroshima 2-1 but Jiangsu Suning was held to 1-1 by Binh Duong of Vietnam.

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