Women’s soccer in China: mirror for the men’s game or the other way around?

By Guillermo Benavides Moine

Beijing, Nov 3 (EFE).- China has a plan to ensure that its women’s soccer team achieves what its men’s sides have never achieved: to establish itself among the world’s elite.

Since the Asian giant’s women’s national team first laced up their boots in 1984, it has been crowned Asian champions 12 times, most recently in February.

Their greatest international achievements have been two runner-up finishes, one at the Olympics and the other at the World Cup in the glorious 1990s, which marked the beginning of almost two decades in the footballing wilderness.

To continue the growth of recent years in soccer in general, in October China presented a project to focus part of these efforts exclusively on the women’s game.

The 10-year plan, whose main aim is to host the 2031 World Cup, has brought together various bodies such as the Ministries of Education, Finance and the Chinese Football Association (CFA).

They hope to be among the top eight at the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games, then reach the top four by 2030 to make it to the 2031 tournament as serious contenders.

At the same time, they intend to implement entry rules for the Chinese Super League in which any club wishing to participate must have its own women’s team to help professionalize female soccer.

The strategy presented just after the conclusion of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), where renowned soccer fan Xi Jinping was re-elected for an unprecedented third term, does not specify the funds that will be needed to fulfill its objectives.

But it is expected that they will take advantage of the support budget launched by Alipay, belonging to the giant Alibaba, with its campaign for women’s soccer of 1 billion yuan ($137 million) for 10 years that began to be used in 2019.

The 2020 numbers presented by the CFA, after investing the first 100 million yuan, showed clear progress.

After 52 weeks, the number of training teams for young footballers increased from 62 to 136, an increase of 119%, with a total of 2,995 promising future players enrolled in them, after passing through 369 training centers distributed among primary and secondary schools.

The project also emphasizes the need to create an environment and soccer culture in women’s society that will enable them to achieve their goals.

“They have to learn to have fun and not just think about winning,” said Paul Major, the organizer of the international women’s league in Beijing, which has as many teams of foreign players as Chinese players, as the biggest problem facing Chinese women’s soccer.

It is a view shared by Xu Zhibin, coach of three women’s amateur teams in the aforementioned competition plus two university teams in the capital, who stressed to EFE that “some of the girls are learning to enjoy a sporting event for the first time in their lives, a whole new world has opened up for them.”

Xu added that “the out-dated social status of women makes women’s sports nothing more than a macro strategy for Olympic medals”, which in her opinion “means that few women practice any sport, especially those that are difficult to master or require more players to play in a team”. EFE


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