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Soccer Culture in China

Photographer: Wu Hong


Soccer culture and soccer sports has been growing faster in China in recent years, most notably after President Xi Jinping professed his love for the sport and expressed his wish to see China qualify for the FIFA World Cup and to one day host and win the most coveted trophy of the soccer world.


In its push to become the world's top soccer superpower, the Chinese government has unveiled plans on 11 April 2016 to reach its goal of being among the top teams by 2050. The 14-page plan, released by National Development and Reform Commission titled The 'Medium and Long-Term Plan of Chinese Football Development' spans over 35 years from 2016-2050. By 2020, the country aims to have 20,000 soccer characteristic schools, 30 million elementary and middle school students playing the sport, and 50 million people active in the soccer sports. Longer term ambitions include creating one pitch for every 10,000 people by 2030 and turning the men and women national teams into leading teams in Asia and the world.


Billions of dollars have been channeled into the Chinese game, most notably in the form of high-profile signings of foreign stars into the country's professional league, the Chinese Super League. The 16-team league has spent a record 366 million US dollars acquiring players during the last international soccer's transfer window attracting players like Brazilian stars Alex Teixeira and Ramires.


Now in Beijing, five-players soccer league matches are held in many kindergartens during the weekend and also the soccer leagues are becoming popular among primary and high schools. In 2015 the Beijing municipal government said plan to invest RMB 50 million yuan (Euro 6.8 million) on soccer education for primary and high school students for their three-year-plan. In college, China University Football League is popular nationwide. Tsinghua University, one of the top universities in China, began to recruit soccer players in March and was estimated to have admitted up to 12 of the 100 candidates it considered,following a 5-year suspension of recruitment. Also another top university in China, Peking University plans to recruit soccer talents in 2016.