New head of CFA finally to be elected

Shanghai Chenbao 21 JanThe front page of the Shanghai Morning Post (上海晨报) today reports that a new leadership for the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the body administering football in China, is now finally set to be elected. After a hiatus of ten years (the last time CFA held such a meeting was in 2003), a two-day meeting is in session from today to elect the body’s new leadership that will be tasked with developing football in China over the next decade as well as enacting reforms to how the CFA operates. Yet the Shanghai Morning Post posits that the CFA still has its head in the clouds without addressing the depressingly weak foundations of football in China.

The current acting head of the CFA is Zhang Jian 张剑, who replaced Wei Di 韦迪 in January 2013. In recent months, according to Shanghai Morning Post, Zhang has been avoiding any overt contact with the media, focusing instead on legal and operational work at the CFA. Thus shoring up his own standing, Zhang is expected to be a leading candidate to be appointed formally to the leadership at the meeting.

The meeting will also be tasked with reducing the number of vice-chairpersons of the CFA from 22 to a mere six. The world football governing body FIFA has also reportedly been involved with the CFA for some time aiming to make sure the election of the new leadership strictly adheres to regulations, and that the CFA governing body be reduced in number and streamlined. Despite these requirements, however, the CFA recently for the first time hired two vice-chairpersons from other industries, namely Wang Dengfeng 王登峰 from Education and Liu Shaowu 刘绍武 from Public Security.

The meeting currently underway will also discuss a ten-year plan for developing Chinese football for the period 2014-2023, some of the goals of which include the establishment of national football infrastructure, qualification of the national team for the 2018 and 2022 world cups, and the popularizing of women’s football.

The Shanghai Morning Post is dismissive of the objectives outlined above as totally unrealistic. The newspaper points out that the number of players registered with the CFA at all levels has declined from 41,898 in 2004 to no more than 20,000 five years later. Of a total of 3,985 football coaches in China, only 47 are at the professional level. These paltry numbers are in stark contrast with other countries. Japan for example has around 90,000 registered football players and 61,291 training personnel, 220 of which are professionals.

How will this utterly weak foundation at the grassroots, Shanghai Morning Post asks, be able to prop up the pie in the sky ideals of the CFA?

Links and sources
Shanghai Morning Post (上海晨报): 迟到的足代会,究竟能开出啥