Ex-national footballer sheds light on how China can return to World Cup
Although the number of football fans in China is growing, China’s national team has only ever made it into the World Cup in 2002. This remains the biggest concern for football lovers.
So far, the 2002 World Cup is the first and only time that China’s football team had ever participated in the game. Zhao Junzhe was among the team back then.
39-year-old Zhao started playing football when he was eight. During his career, he was the captain of the national team, receiving many awards including the Footballer of the Year in 2004. 
After spending three decades working as a professional football player, Zhao retired in 2016 and spent more time training the younger generation.
 2016: Zhao Junzhe at the press conference for the announcement of his retirement. /VCG Photo

 2016: Zhao Junzhe at the press conference for the announcement of his retirement. /VCG Photo

On June 14th, the opening day of the 2018 World Cup, Zhao appeared at Adidas Tango League competition to witness and award the young football amateurs from Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.
“We are a country with a large population, yet we don't really have that many people playing football,” said Zhao in an exclusive interview with CGTN Digital during the event.
He believes cultivating the young generation with football culture, helping them to learn more about and fall in love with football is crucial for improving the level of China’s football.
This year’s World Cup sees much bigger enthusiasm from Chinese fans with over 40,000 tickets sold.
Right before the 2018 World Cup kicked off, CCTV host Bai Yansong’s comment “Everything in China will attend the 2018 World Cup except the national team” went viral across the Internet. This self-mockery also shows China's increasing interests in the World Cup.
How can we get the national team back in the World Cup? Zhao shared his thoughts with CGTN.