A group of high-ranking Chinese sports officials headed for Japan Tuesday afternoon, hoping to bring back the secret behind the island country's stunning soccer success over the years, Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported Wednesday.
The delegation, headed by China's deputy sport chief Cai Zhenhua, is expected to meet Junji Ogura, president of Japan Football Association (JFA) and visit a local high school to see its campus soccer team and facilities on Wednesday.
As well as meetings with Japan's soccer and education officials, the delegation also plans to visit the Urawa Red Diamonds, a renowned football club in Japan's J-League, and watch its upcoming league match with Yokohama F. Marinos, said the report.
Among the Chinese delegation members is Wei Di, head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), as well as officials from the Ministry of Education and other related government agencies.
The focus of the delegation is to see the development of soccer and sport as a whole may be integrated into the system of education.
This visit is part of a large-scale research project initiated by China's sports ministry this June for the purpose of fully understanding the status of China's soccer development and learning the experiences of world's top soccer countries.
Japan has witnessed rapid progress in soccer not only by its national teams' performance, but also its young players' training and development for professional leagues. It was for this reason that Japan was the first and best choice for the Chinese delegation to visit, the newspaper analyzed.
However, Chinese soccer officials have repeatedly visited Japan to gain insight over the past decade; meanwhile, the state of Chinese soccer has been degraded to an intolerable level – the men's national team failed to advance through even the preliminary group stage of World Cup qualifications twice, soon to be three times, if they fail to win an away game against Iraq on November 11.
"So many visits are just futile, I haven't seen any changes in Chinese soccer," ex-president of JFA Saburo kawabuchi is quoted as saying by Oriental Morning Post.
The dwindling pool of young players for selection and the corrupt professional leagues plagued by match fixing and gambling are generally regarded as the major problems behind the huge slump in the status of Chinese football.
Statistics show that there are only 7,000 registered young soccer players under the age of 18 in China, while in Japan that same group's number is 500,000.
The trial dates for Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, China's two ex-soccer bosses who were arrested for involvement in soccer scandals, have yet to be decided.