AFC urges China to nurture more home-grown talent

AFP
The CSL has become a major player in the global transfer market but the national side has stagnated and is on the brink of failing to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup.
AFP
Imaginechina

Guangzhou Evergrand Taobao defeated Shandong Luneng Taishan 2-1.

China is enjoying a "football boom" at club level but the country needs to do more to nurture talent for the struggling national team, according to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary Windsor John.

The Chinese Super League (CSL) has become a major player in the global transfer market in recent years but the national side has stagnated and is on the brink of failing to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup.

"China's football boom is good news for the AFC... because it is a very important partner for us," Windsor John said in comments published by state news agency Xinhua.

"On one hand, we need to improve the performance of the national team, so you need more home-grown players, more Chinese players who play in top clubs regularly and they can be prepared for the national team.

"On the other hand, the clubs want to do well in the league and become the champion, not only domestically but also champion in Asia. So it's a difficult situation."

China qualified for its only World Cup in 2002, when it lost all of its matches and failed to score a goal at the tournament co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping, an avid soccer fan, has launched an ambitious drive to improve local football from the ground up and spoken of his wish for the country to qualify for another World Cup, host the tournament and eventually win it.

Chinese Super League clubs have splashed out on high-profile international players and coaches in recent years, repeatedly smashing transfer window records and stoking official alarm at the exorbitant spending.

The recently closed domestic transfer window was more subdued, however, after football authorities imposed a 100 percent levy on foreign signings of more than 40 million yuan ($5.92 million).

China, ranked world number 77, must beat Uzbekistan at home and Qatar away in the final two rounds of Asian qualifying in August and September to have any hope of grabbing third place in Group A and a chance to reach Russia through the playoffs.

Their best chance of qualifying may have to wait until 2026 when the World Cup expands to 48 teams, however.

Asia will be allotted 8.5 berths for the tournament, up from the 4.5 slots the continent currently enjoys. The half-place represents a team going into a playoff.

"So that means more countries and regions can now dream that they can reach the World Cup," Windsor John added.

"This naturally give us an opportunity for more members to start working hard from now in youth development and coaches education because they have a real opportunity to go to the World Cup."


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