China plans to open 50,000 football schools by 2025, as part of a long-haul effort to become a world leader in the game, Chinese state media reported Wednesday.
The Chinese Ministry of Education said in a statement it wants to fast track a previous goal of opening 20,000 football schools by 2020. Instead, the ministry will try to open the schools by the end of this year.
Each school could train on average 1,000 students, eventually creating up to 50 million players, Wang Dengfeng, vice-president of the China Football Association, said according to the state-owned publication People’s Daily.
“This is a solid way to select football talent for our future reserves.
“Improving Chinese football is no longer just a dream,” Wang said.
China currently has 13,381 football schools, the ministry said.
Growing the game in China has been an ambition of President Xi Jinping, who has listed a series of benchmarks for Chinese football, including qualifying for, hosting and eventually winning the World Cup.
The national team has struggled to make an impact on the international stage and is unlikely to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
However, Chinese clubs have recently made a series of eye-catching and expensive transfers to lure talent such as Axel Witsel, Carlos Tevez and Oscar to the domestic league.