The Rise Of Football In China
Chinese football has been on the rise recently, and President Xi Jinping has made clear that he wants to see his country as a world football superpower by 2050. By renovating and building 6,000 stadiums as well as creating 50,000 football schools within the next ten years, the Chinese football industry is promised to grow considerably.
Looking at the China Super league (CSL), more and more well-known international players and managers are being offered very high-paying positions with Chinese teams. Some decide to come, but many also refuse. For example, two famous Brazilian players, Hulk and Oscar, now play for Shanghai SIPG club. Other famous players (generally at the end of their career) such as Wayne Rooney or Diego Costa are often asked to come and play for teams here.
Moreover, a growing number of super wealthy Chinese investors are willing to spend big on European clubs. For instance, in 2016 Chinese businessman Tony Xia Jiantong bought UK football club Aston Villa for £76 million.
The aim is clear for president Xi Jinping: to make China one of the top footballing nations in the world by 2050. Hence, it is hoped that by bringing in great players from leagues such as the Premier League (UK) or la Liga (Spain) will improve the level of the CSL and help Chinese players to slowly adapt to foreign levels of competition.
According to renowned manager Sven-Goran Erikson, 2016 was a crazy year for Chinese football and the main reason behind all the transfers is the government. Talking about the president, he says : « I guess he is very happy to see the league is getting better and better, but he wants China, as a national team, to be big, to be better in football ». The pragmatic plan of 2016-2050 aims to build and renovate 60,000 pitches nationwide, double the number of enrolled referees as well as increasing the number of soccer academies to see 30 million Chinese students (elementary and middle school) playing football by 2020. Moreover, the government is supporting the plan with beneficial financial regulations, land grants and tax reductions.
Chinese clubs are breaking transfer records, and players such as Oscar (old Chelsea player) have their salaries quadrupled and are become huge stars in China. Although most of the players moving to Chinese CSL are being criticized, living in China for several years can be quite an adventurous journey and becoming the star of a huge country sounds more exciting than sitting at the touchlines in Europe.
However, many reputed managers consider the CSL a potential danger for European Clubs. According to Antonio Conte (Chelsea’s coach), the limited number of foreign players in Chinese teams (can only be 3) and the lack of world-class Chinese players contribute to the high increase in salaries for foreign players. The less foreign players a Chinese team obtains, the higher their wage will be.
The Chinese league is developing considerably but it is still a long way for the CSL to reach the level of European teams. Football is not only about the field, but also about the bleachers, and China will have to fill in the stadiums they plan to build…
And you ? Do you see China as 2050 world cup winner ?
Guestblog contributed by our intern, Gaetan Laforge.