Camacho backed for long haul
The future of China team manager Jose Antonio Camacho would not be affected by the team's results in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, a senior Chinese Football Association official said yesterday.
The Spaniard is preparing China for their crucial match against Iraq in the third round of the Asian zone qualifiers in Shenzhen next month - a game they must win to keep their hopes alive, after collecting just three points from their first two games.
'We signed Camacho for the sake of the long-term development of the sport in China and not just for the World Cup qualifiers,' said Lin Xiaohua, vice-president of the Chinese Football Association. 'There have been some changes in the national team since his arrival and we believe all these are positive changes which are leading us in the right direction.'
Next month will mark the first time the team will play in Shenzhen after the Special Economic Zone is believed to have paid a sanction fee of 3 million yuan for each of the three scheduled national team matches there.
The Shenzhen authorities are keen to keep the sports momentum going in the city after staging the World University Games there this summer.
China will first play host to the United Arab Emirates in a friendly on October 6 as part of their build-up to their World Cup qualifier against Iraq five days later. The two matches will be held at the Shenzhen World University Games Stadium in Longgang district and Shenzhen Stadium respectively. Their final group game against Jordan on February 29 will also be staged in Guangdong province, with Shenzhen the most likely venue - especially if the team get a good result against Iraq.
Camacho, who led the Spanish national team for four years from 1998-2002, was appointed the China team manager in August with the major task of leading them into the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
China are in group A, which also includes Singapore, and the top two teams will make it into the Asian zone final qualifying round.
There will be 10 teams in the final round, which will be divided into two groups. The top two from each group will qualify automatically for Brazil, with two third-placed teams playing each other to reach a play-off for the final berth.
But China are facing a daunting task after managing a lacklustre 2-1 win against Singapore, possibly the weakest team in the group, in their opening match at home in Kunming earlier this month and then losing the away tie to Jordan 2-1 in Amman.
'We know the road ahead will be challenging and that's why we call on our fans in Shenzhen to support us,' said Lin. 'We also hope fans will cross the border from Hong Kong and will join us.'
A sports marketing expert said Shenzhen could easily recover the sanction fee as there would probably be a huge demand for tickets.
'Never have Shenzhen fans had the opportunity to watch the national team play in front of them,' said Jackie Yu Kwok-king, director of Oceans Marketing - a soccer promoter based in Beijing. 'The match against Iraq is crucial as China need to win to stay in the competition and it will have great interest for the fans.'
Tickets for the World Cup qualifying match will be priced from 180 to 1,500 yuan, while tickets for the friendly against the UAE range from 80 to 380 yuan.
Jose Antonio Camacho's annual salary, in euros, according to mainland media reports