Regions draw up plans to bid for international events
More than 10 Chinese provinces have said that they will sponsor high-level soccer events or even the World Cup as part of their soccer reform plans that were announced recently.
Of the 20 that have published their own plans, at least 13 say they look forward to holding large international soccer events, or "actively pursue applying for the FIFA World Cup," the China News Service (CNS) reported on Saturday.
The plans are an indication that the regions have the desire to support China as a host of the World Cup and could start making long-term preparations for this, Wang Dazhao, a Beijing soccer commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"For local governments, hosting a great sporting events such as the World Cup would mean an opportunity to improve their urban design and infrastructure," Wang noted.
According to Beijing's soccer reform plans that were announced in October, the city will develop a more mature and healthy soccer culture and make an active bid for an international top-level soccer event, CNS reported.
Central China's Hubei Province, in November 2016, said that they support the province's capital city, Wuhan, in its bid for the FIFA Worlds Cup, A-level international matches, and matches of the China national teams, Sina Sports has reported.
East China's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces have also made the World Cup a major goal, while other regions, including East China's Shandong Province, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and South China's Hainan Province, have expressed an interest in "high-level," "large" or "significant" international soccer events, CNS said.
"China has several cities with a soccer tradition, such as Beijing and Shanghai, but now other regions, such as Jiangsu and Zhejiang, have been developing a soccer culture by getting clubs in the national top leagues thanks to their booming economies," Wang said.
"Soccer fans could be exposed to more foreign soccer culture through the World Cup and that could increase the sport's popularity," one Beijing soccer fan, surnamed Zhang, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"I really would like to experience the crazy, frantic air of the World Cup in China, and I would like to see the Italy team the most," Zhang said.
"China could build great sports facilities or invite foreign experts or coaches, but forming a soccer culture and nurturing young players' values are what we should address now," Wang said.
The overall reforms to develop soccer in China came from the State Council's General Office in March 2015, which stated that the China Football Association needed to terminate its affiliation with the General Sport Administration of China, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Longer-term goals include bidding for the FIFA World Cup and getting the national team to rank among leading international teams, the plans say.