China’s capital has kicked off plans to raise standards in football – president Xi Jinping’s favourite sport – including having 100,000 youngsters studying the finer points of ‘the beautiful game’ within three years. Xi has been a passionate football fan since his childhood and made repeated calls for improved football education among youngsters to help raise playing standards in the most watched sport in China. ’s> Three years ago Xi expressed three football wishes – for China to qualify for another World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup. [We must] start with children to improve the football standard in China Wang Dengfeng, Ministry of Education Wang Jun, head of sports, health and arts department at the Beijing Commission of Education, said on Sunday that the capital had drawn up 20 different measures to improve football education on Beijing campuses. The plans include making football one of the options in the high-school entrance examination’s sports test in 2016, Xinhua reported. Three campus school training centres and 200 schools, with an emphasis on football training, will be set up in Beijing within three years. Domestic and foreign football experts, senior coaches and retired players will be hired to develop football education. The Beijing government will provide football training facilities by renting sites, building football pitches in suburban areas, plus smaller pitches in urban areas. It will also pay for primary school students to be given football training at commercial sports clubs and offer grants to football students. “At last 100,000 students will become football players after two to three years of development,” Wang was quoted as saying. However, some of the plans were subject to change and improvements and had yet to be finalised, Wang said. In July, 10 schools in Beijing’s Chaoyang district were recognised as schools providing comprehensive training in football, which will set up football teams for both boys and girls. Professional football coaches and referees have been hired to provide expertise at the schools, with the teams competing between each other on in new school football leagues, the Beijing Evening News reported. In the past Xi has attended numerous football training sessions – even showing off his own football skills on occasion – and on state visits abroad met many of the worlds leading footballers, including David Beckham. Last year Beckham took on the role as China’s first global football ambassador by making visits to the nation to promote the Chinese Super League to the world and raise the profile of the game within China itself. Previously the State Council has held meetings to promote football on the country’s school campuses and the sport is to become part of compulsory education. On a national level, the Ministry of Education has revealed plans to build 20,000 schools with football pitches and training facilities, and for 200 universities to have high standard football teams by 2017. Wang Dengfeng, director of the Physical Education, Health and Art Department at the Ministry of Education, said football had been picked to launch PE reforms in China’s schools because the sport had huge global appeal and also because the standard of the national team lagged behind those of many other countries. “[We must] start with children to improve the football standard in China and get more children involved,” Wang told Xinhua. He denied that making football a compulsory school subject would lead to students spending all their time focusing on football. Students would still need to learn basic skills in different sports, he said. About one in four PE classes would be devoted to teaching football at schools that specialised in the sport, he said. The programme meant additional football teachers would be needed, so the plan involved encouraging and training more people to become full-time teachers, and also hiring people, including retired footballers, to work as part-time coaches and referees. Existing football facilities would be expanded and improved, and the sharing of premises run by businesses and community groups would be encouraged, too. “The central government finance will provide funding on a national level to teach, study, train and organise competitive leagues, while local governments will pay for these areas on a local level, Wang said. “We also aim to get support from businesses and social groups and organisations,” he told Xinhua said. Beijing Sport University said it had formed an alliance with 14 other sports universities to send volunteers to schools and areas that needed football coaches to help train students. The pilot scheme involving football would serve as precedent, with its ideas adopted for teaching other sports, such as basketball or volleyball, at schools specialising in these activities. China lies 99th in the world in last month’s rankings published by Fifa, football’s world Governing body. The national team has brought disappointment and humiliation to the nation’s fans, including a 5-1 home defeat by Thailand last year. China qualified for its first and – so far – only World Cup finals in 2002, hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea, but the team finished ranked 31st out of the 32 taking part.