KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 (Reuters) - Chinese Football Association acting president Du Zhaocai is hoping a successful attempt to host the Asian Cup in 2023 will lay the ground work for a future World Cup bid as the nation seeks to enhance its presence on the global football stage.
Du was one of the six newly elected members of the FIFA Council at the Asian Football Confederation’s congress on Saturday and his association is now aiming to win the rights to host the continental championship when the next host in determined in June.
“For China, the Asian Cup and the World Cup are our dreams and the Chinese football federation would like to host the Asian Cup and the World Cup in the future,” he said.
“We are just making a plan for the future.
“In China the local government pays a lot of focus on developing football and the cities are planning to host tournaments.
“We are just preparing the bid and then we will apply.”
China last hosted the Asian Cup finals in 2004 and will go head-to-head in the hosting battle for the 2023 tournament with South Korea. The decision will be made on June 4 in Paris.
China’s men’s senior team has struggled to make an impact since the early years of the millennium, with the country securing a place at their first - and so far only - World Cup finals in 2002.
Two years later, China progressed to the final of the Asian Cup on home soil, only to lose to Japan in the decider in Beijing. They have not reached the semi-finals of the tournament in four attempts since.
Despite their struggles on the pitch, China president Xi Jinping has set the country’s sights on becoming a major player in global football and has said he wants the nation to qualify for, host and win the World Cup.
As a result, Chinese companies have pumped huge sums into hiring world class coaches and luring foreign talent to the Chinese Super League, but with mixed results.
While Chinese clubs have impressed in continental competition, with Guangzhou Evergrande twice winning the Asian Champions League, the national team continues to struggle.
World Cup winner Marcello Lippi did not renew his contract after his team was knocked out of the Asian Cup at the quarter-final stage by Iran in January while interim coach Fabio Cannavaro saw the team lose to both Thailand and Uzbekistan in the recent China Cup.
The election of Du, who is also China’s deputy sports minister, means China will continue to have a voice in world football’s decision-making body as he takes over the role from CFA vice president Zhang Jian and he believes the country is moving in the right direction.
“I think I can work hard with my colleagues for the benefit for Asian and world football,” he said. “China is a big country in Asian and world football and we need a lot of football development.
“Football is very popular in China and the Chinese people really like football. I think Chinese football is improving.” (Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)