China plans to be a world 'superpower' in soccer by 2050

Agence France-Presse
China's national soccer team celebrates after defeating Qatar 2-0 at Shaanxi Province Stadium in Xi'an, China, on March 29, 2016.
China's national soccer team celebrates after defeating Qatar 2-0 at Shaanxi Province Stadium in Xi'an, China, on March 29, 2016.  

China's perennially low-ranked soccer team will be one of the world's greatest by 2050, the government vowed in a plan released by China's top economic planning body on Monday.

The 14-page plan outlined a multi-decade vision to vault Team Dragon — currently ranked 81 in the world by FIFA — into the elite and "realize the goal of being the top class soccer nation", it said.

It was issued by a joint committee of the National Sports Administration, the Chinese Football Association, the education ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission.

President Xi Jinping, an avowed soccer lover, has declared that China should fulfill his three dreams of hosting, qualifying for, and winning a World Cup.

But the world's most populous country has had dismal results, only ever appearing once at the World Cup in 2002.

The committee said that in the next four years China will have 20,000 soccer academies, 30 million elementary and middle school pupils playing the sport, among more than 50 million Chinese active in the game.

By following the blueprint China will "realize the dream of springing to the top at football" and bring to life "the sports-superpower dream" and "national revival dream", it said.

The report came shortly after China's 2-0 shock win against previously unbeaten Qatar, thrilling local fans and sending the team through to the final Asian qualifying stage for Russia 2018.

The team has enjoyed a recent spurt of success under reinstated coach Gao Hongbo, who replaced Frenchman Alain Perrin after he was sacked following a 0-0 draw with Hong Kong in November that left China facing elimination.