China to play big role in world football: City coach Pellegrini

Beijing, April 11 (IANS) Manchester City head coach Manuel Pellegrini has hailed China as a real rising football power and expected it to play a big role in the near future.

The former Real Madrid head coach was impressed by the determination manifested by Chinese football, which on Monday witnessed the publication of another milestone plan titled the “Notice of Publishing The Mid-and Long Term Development Plan for Chinese Soccer”, reports Xinhua.

According to this document released by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, China aims to rank among the world’s top teams by 2050.

“I think that China, at this time, is a real rising power. The growing interest for football in the country has been strengthened by the arrival of first level players and coaches to the Super League, such as Jackson Martinez, Alex Teixeira, Ramires, Elkerson, Gervinho, (Felipe) Scolari and (Marcello) Lippi, and with the enormous evolution of national players as well, like Ke Sun,” Pellegrini told Xinhua.

Chinese football is benefiting as a whole from the influx of big-name players and coaches, he said.

“I find it extraordinary that the love and the extreme care with which grassroots football is working in China, thanks especially to the training work by established professionals who share their experiences with coaches and players,” he said.

“The arrival of these new stars to the Super League should also be seen as an opportunity. These large investments by clubs generate new opportunities for grassroots football: new facilities, training for coaches, building alliances with professionals around the world… A very important collaboration route is opened to help and consolidate the work of new professionals in China,” he said.

The 62-year-old Chilean saw a bright future being laid out for Chinese football which has been buoyed by positive state reform plans.

“It is very interesting to see how the passion for football in China is growing exponentially and how the professionalisation of institutions, players and coaching staff can improve and deliver a very high quality sport,” he said.

“We are seeing now stadiums are being filled up with children who want to become professional footballers.”

Pellegrini reckoned that the 2002 FIFA World Cup where China qualified for the finals turned out to be a landmark for Chinese soccer.

“The qualification of the Chinese national team for the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, was a huge leap in quality for this sport in China,” he said.

“Since that, all the work that is being developed with the new generation of players is a wise decision and, in my view, a very intelligent strategy. I am sure that in the near future, the Chinese national team will be able to come back to the final stages of the World Cup, where I am sure they will play a big role,” he said.

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