• China national football team training (Getty Images)
China intends to have 50,000 football academies by 2025 as part of an ambitious blueprint to grow into a football superpower.
Source:
AAP
22 Feb 2017 - 10:58 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2017 - 10:58 PM

The announcement, made by China's football association Vice President Wang Dengfeng, more than doubles the earlier target of 20,000 academies by 2020.

Wang was quoted by state media on Wednesday as saying that each school would be able to train 1,000 young players on average, fulfilling the goal laid out in a plan announced last April of having 50 million competent players.

"This is a solid way to select football talent for our future reserves. Improving Chinese football is no longer just a dream," Wang was quoted as saying on the website of the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.

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China's men have only qualified for one World Cup and President Xi Jinping has made boosting China's football fortunes a national priority. Plans call for again qualifying for the sport's marquee event, hosting it and winning the title by 2050.

To that end, China last year signed World Cup-winning former Italy manager Marcello Lippi to take over the national men's team. The government has also ordered the creation of 70,000 football fields to fill gaps in its youth program.

Teams in China's professional leagues, meanwhile, have recruited international stars such as Carlos Tevez, Oscar and Alex Teixeira on highly paid contracts, raising concerns that they are neglecting home-grown talent.