China's youth soccer development has scored major goals since 2015 with 20,218 schools selected to offer soccer-specialized education as part of a national ambition to turn China into a world soccer power by 2050.
These schools are now involving over 10 million student players in a four-tier campus league connecting primary schools to colleges, while another 30,000 such schools will be built across the country by 2025, the Ministry of Education announced Thursday.
In early 2015, the central government issued a soccer reform plan inspired by President Xi Jinping aimed at developing the country into a world-class player in the game by 2050 through widespread school soccer programs and facility upgrades, building 60,000 new pitches by 2020.
To address the lack of qualified youth training staff, the ministry has introduced a series of preferential policies encouraging local schools to hire 15,594 physical education teachers with soccer backgrounds.
The central and regional sports and education authorities have trained more than 230,000 PE teachers and youth soccer coaches over the past three years while sending 1,100 of them for three-month overseas training programs in European powers such as France and Britain.
"Our program has achieved great progress but the challenges remain. Starting from this year, we have to strictly run an examination of the work conducted by all the soccer-specializing schools to guarantee quality of training over the increase in quantity," said Wang Dengfeng, director of the PE, Health and Arts Department of the ministry.
After a thorough review, 30 soccer schools will be soon excluded from the program and will no longer receive special funding and policy support after failing to meet the requirements in training hours, quality and organization of competitions, Wang said.
To inspire greater passion among China's academic-first parents, the ministry plans to entitle 63 more colleges the rights to enroll excellent athlete students in soccer with lower requirements in entrance examinations later this year from the number of 77 in 2017[what does "the number of 77" refer to?].
"The goal of our school soccer promotion is not to cultivate talents directly for elite competitions for professional clubs or national teams. It is considered an integral part of all-around education and to involve as many youth as possible in a healthier life," said Wang.