CFA president Chen Xuyuan: China's eye is fixed on World Cup glory
Updated 19:54, 24-Aug-2019

From running a state-owned conglomerate that owns Shanghai SIPG football club to assuming the top position in Chinese football governing body, the newly-elected Chinese Football Association (CFA) president Chen Xuyuan said he has read the football reform plan published by the Chinese government in 2015 "over and over again," with the purpose of understanding Chinese football better as a whole.

Aiming to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the short-term and transform the country into a footballing powerhouse by 2050 in the long-term, the 63-year-old told Xinhua he is ready to give his all despite significant obstacles ahead.

Reform in professional leagues

"The Chinese Super League (CSL) and lower leagues have been rapidly developing in recent years, but our professional leagues are still facing a huge crisis," Chen said. "Our clubs can barely achieve sustainable development. The owners have invested a lot but earn little back. Some lower league clubs are on the edge of bankruptcy."

"I realized this could be detrimental to Chinese football when I was at Shanghai SIPG, and I feel more anxious since preparing for the CFA election three months ago," he said.

Having worked at one of the CSL's highest-spending clubs for six years, Chen was fully aware of the hidden crisis and worried about the soaring expenditure and relatively low revenue among Chinese clubs.

"The healthy development of professional leagues is the cornerstone of Chinese football. Clubs need to be financially independent. We are far from that," Chen said, noting that his first move will be to focus on promoting the independent operation of the CSL, which is currently managed directly by the CFA.

In his blueprint, the future CSL should operate as an independent and market-oriented corporation like the Premier League in England and Spain's La Liga, in which member clubs act as shareholders. The CFA would no longer be involved in the day-to-day operation of the league, instead functioning as a supervisory body.

"I think in the future, the CSL and the CFA will be partners. As long as we make the rules clear, there won't be much conflict between the two, and our professional leagues will be able to develop themselves better. The policies in the league will be more consistent," Chen said, adding that the new plans would be drawn up in October in time to be implemented ahead of the 2020 CSL season.

Brazil-born striker Elkeson says he wants to fire China to the World Cup. /VCG Photo

Brazil-born striker Elkeson says he wants to fire China to the World Cup. /VCG Photo

World Cup dream

Before the conference, the CFA confirmed that Brazilian-born forward Elkeson, whose Chinese name is Ai Kesen, has been named in the Chinese squad to become the first naturalized player without Chinese ancestry to wear Team Dragon jersey.

"We want to go to Qatar. Naturalized players can be helpful in order to achieve the national team's short-term goals. Up to now, clubs have registered nine naturalized players with or without Chinese heritage at the CFA in total, some of them are still going through the naturalization process," Chen said.

A CFA working report published earlier claimed that the "lackluster performance of the national teams" is one of the five main problems challenging the future development of Chinese football.

"If the Chinese national team can enter the next stage of qualification, we may introduce a few more naturalized players," Chen told Xinhua. "But it will never be a long-term policy of the CFA, and the numbers will be very limited," he added.

Chen also expressed his willingness to help China host a World Cup in the future.

"Hosting the World Cup is a dream of all Chinese fans, including me. The CFA will analyze and find out when is the best timing to bid," Chen noted.

(With input from Xinhua)

(CGTN's Sports Scene contributes to the story)