China World Cup bid only a matter of time, says country’s new man in football’s corridors of power

Zhang Jian says further study is required on which tournament to bid for and suggests the government will have final say on ‘national project’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 May, 2017, 11:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 May, 2017, 9:45pm

Zhang Jian, China’s newly elected Fifa council member, says a World Cup bid from the country will come “sooner or later” and said his elevation to world football’s main decision-making body would boost the country’s status in world football.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has declared that the country must qualify for, host and eventually win a World Cup in coming decades under the country’s plan to become a “soccer superpower”.

“A World Cup bid can be said to come sooner or later, because it is written in black and white in the ‘Chinese football overall reform and development programme’,” Zhang, vice-president and general secretary of the Chinese Football Association, told state media outlet Xinhua at the World Football Forum in Changsha, Hunan.

“But as for the specific bid for which World Cup, it must be based on a comprehensive assessment of all aspects of the situation. At the same time the World Cup bid is also a national project – it’s not just the Chinese Football Association that can decide such a thing; we will base it on the development of the situation ... it’s a major [project] that we will seriously study.”

A report this month claimed China had prepared an official bid to host in 2034, though the CFA said the reporter was “being hasty”.

Major Chinese companies such as Wanda Group, Huawei and Alibaba (the owner of the South China Morning Post) have come on board as Fifa sponsors, moves seen by many as attempts to boost the country’s standing within the organisation.

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Zhang said his election to Fifa’s 37-member council could only be positive for China.

“In Chinese football’s reform and development big things are happening in the background,” Xinhua quoted him as saying. “It means that the future of Chinese football and world football, and Asian football, can be better integrated.

“China’s football reform and development should also bring more opportunities and motivation for Asian football and world football

“Asia is the world’s largest continent, but Asian football is still relatively backward in the world – but from the geographical size, population and market Asian [football] has great potential, it will have a great future.”

The earliest China can realistically host will be in 2030, though they could in theory bid for 2026 in the unlikely event there are no bids from Fifa’s North and Central America, Caribbean, Oceania or South America regions. A joint bid from USA, Mexico and Canada is expected to be fast-tracked for 2026.

Chung Mong-gyu, Korean Football Association president and also elected to the Fifa council this month, suggested this week that South Korea, Japan, China – and even North Korea – could team up to jointly bid for 2030.

“If South Korea, China, and Japan decide to stage the World Cup, it can be really appealing to others in terms of financial conditions,” Chung Mong-gyu said.

“We have a very attractive football market.”