The election of a high-level Chinese official to the FIFA Council has reignited soccer fans' hopes of the country having a bigger role in international soccer, with some sports insiders speculating that it will help China bid for the World Cup.
Coach Paulo from Portugal teaches a football class for the Chinese students at a school in Shanghai. (Photo: Yang Hui/Global Times)
Du Zhaocai, deputy minister of China's State General Administration of Sport, was one of six Asian representatives elected to the FIFA Council at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress for the next term from 2019 to 2023.
"It marks the first time a Chinese official at the ministerial level has been elected as a council member," Ma Dexing, deputy editor-in-chief of Titan Sports told the Global Times on Monday.
Du's election is seen as a strong boost to bid for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup and the World Cup in the long run. Meanwhile, China currently needs more international support to develop soccer, and Du can help China win more favor from the international community, Ma said.
"The council is the main decision-making entity of FIFA, and Du's role cannot be underestimated as he will have a bigger voice in the council's decision-making in FIFA, the AFC and the World Cup," Ma noted.
In January, the departure of Italian head coach Marcello Lippi after the Chinese team's failure to proceed beyond the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup has cast a dark cloud over the future of Chinese soccer, but the news about Du has given fans a glimmer of hope.
Many netizens have voiced the hope that with more focus on China's soccer game in recent years and a bigger voice on international soccer affairs, China is on the right track toward hosting the World Cup in the future.
During President Xi Jinping's visit to Italy in March, China expressed the hope that Italy would support its bid for the World Cup.
It plans to send young Chinese players to local schools for professional training, Italian media reported.
"As a big country, China should have its own voice on the international soccer stage, and better promote soccer development in China and Asia," Du told the Xinhua News Agency at the AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.