Chinese soccer success could be made in Germany, with national youth team set to play in country’s fourth division

Controversial plan has been met with bemusement by many, but seems set to be signed by none other than president Xi Jinping himself

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 12:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 12:40pm

Could Chinese soccer success be made in Germany?

That seems to be the plan, with the country’s under-20 national team set to play in the German fourth division next season in order to hone their skills and fitness as they try to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

A deal – variously described as “crazy”, “incredible” and “pure capitalism” in Germany – has apparently been agreed “at the highest level” of the respective governments, and will be signed by president Xi Jinping when he visits Berlin on July 5, according to German reports.

“All 19 clubs in the league have signalled their approval that the Chinese are playing, so I see the project going very well,” the league’s managing director Felix Wiedemann told Bild.

Reports in China quoted an unnamed CFA source saying it was the first the organisation had heard of it – suggesting the deal had been made over their heads.

“If this decision really has been made, then proper procedures have not been followed,” Sohu quoted a source as saying.

“It should at least be reported to the CFA executive committee for discussion.

“But the reality is that the national organisation has not received any such report.”

A representative of FK Pirmasens, one of six clubs relegated from the respective league last season, was scathing.

“We are one of the two to three amateur clubs and are now out of this league, and six teams are leaving, and the DFB is catching up with the Chinese national team, and we have to accept that, but for me it’s pure capitalism,” Zeit Online quoted Primasens official Christoph Radtke as saying.

“Such regulations have nothing to do with our sport at all, because it’s all about money, and that comes with us from the top.”

Radtke is in the minority, according to Ronny Zimmerman, vice-chairman of the German Football Association (DFB).

“[The clubs] are in favour of the idea,” Kicker quoted him as saying.

“The planned co-operation with China is well-known, of course you also need good content, so we have to see if the idea comes into being.”

Marc-Nicolai Pfeifer, managing director of Stuttgart Kickers, praised the idea as “great” and said the “red carpet” would be rolled out for the Chinese.

China’s youth teams were slammed recently by former star Sun Jihai, who described them as sorely lacking in technique and fitness compared to other countries.

There are currently only 19 teams in the German league, so they will all play two home games against the China side, who will be based near Heidelberg, Bild added. The results will not count in the league and every club in the league will get 15,000 from the CFA.

The DFB and the CFA signed a five-year partnership agreement in November last year.

China still have to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, which is contested by under-23 teams. The Asian Under-23 Championship, hosted by China next year, will decide Asia’s three representatives in Tokyo.

China recently agreed a similar deal with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to allow the national ice hockey team to play in that competition in preparation for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.