China’s top football official urged teams to make the Communist Party proud and said that the sport in the country is at “a historical turning point”, days after champions Jiangsu FC were kicked out.
Chinese Football Association president Chen Xuyuan attempted to turn the page on a chapter that has been hugely damaging to the reputation of football in the world’s most populous nation.
Jiangsu in February said they were ceasing operations after struggling owners Suning pulled the plug on the team, then on Monday the CFA confirmed that the club would not compete in the new Chinese Super League season.
With kick-off now confirmed for April 20, Chen talked of a “new image and face of Chinese football”.Â
“Whether we can make new progress depends on our togetherness,” he said in comments carried on the CFA’s website, following a meeting with club executives in Shanghai on Thursday.
“The big ship of professional football is moving forward and we may encounter some reefs and storms.
“I hope that everyone will work together, share honour and disgrace, and reach victory.”
China under President Xi Jinping launched a programme in 2015 to make the country a leading power in football.
However, Jiangsu’s abrupt demise, just over 100 days after winning the Chinese league title for the first time, raised fresh doubts about those ambitions.
Chen told clubs that there was an extra onus on Chinese football this year because July will be 100 years since the founding of the ruling Communist Party.
“Add glory to the centenary of the founding of the party,” he said.
Chinese football, which gained a reputation in recent years for heavy spending on the likes of Brazilians Oscar, Hulk and Paulinho, has dramatically tightened its belt after nearly 20 clubs went under in the past two years.