AFC and China FA meet with China Sports Minister

The Asian Football Confederation's Vision China project moved another step forward today when AFC President, Mohamed bin Hammam and an AFC delegation met with the Peoples Republic of China’s Minister of Sport, Liu Peng. It is the first time the two leaders in sport had met and the main agenda item was the development of football in China, through the AFC’s established program with the China Football Association, Vision Asia. AFC presented the achievements to date in two Chinese cities, Qingdao and Wuhan and the plan for the expansion of the programme to fifteen additional cities in the next phase that will be launched tomorrow in Qingdao at the Vision China Football Development Conference.

“AFC is a great supporter of football in China. We have already seen the preliminary success in Qingdao and Wuhan, so I would like to say thank you to Mohamed bin Hammam and all people at AFC," the minister commented. “We will take care of the project; we will fully cooperate and take care of the project, Vision China, with AFC." The minister reportedly also outlined four key points and requested that AFC take into account the diversity of China and the different needs in the different cities.

The AFC president expressed the important that China has in Asia’s development plans, “If we fail in China, we fail in all of Asia. And if we succeed in China, we succeed in all of Asia. At AFC we are very impressed by the Ministry’s efforts to develop youth and grassroots sport. This meeting has given us a great opportunity to learn from the Minister and take his advice regarding the future of Vision China in Asia. We look forward to continuing our focus and hard work in China," he said, as reported by AFCMedia.

The China Football Association delegation was led by its General Secretary, Xie Yalong and included Yang Li Guo, the General Secretary of China Student Sports Federation and top CFA officials. The AFC delegation accompanying Hammam included AFC General Secretary Dato Peter Velappan, AFC Deputy General Secretary Dato Paul Mony and senior AFC development staff as well as Peter Kenyon, Chief Executive of Chelsea Football Club, and Peter Bratschi of the interantional sportswear company, NIKE, one of AFC’s most active current commercial partners. AFC and Chelsea FC are in advanced discussions regarding Chelsea’s support of the Vision China programme and overall football development in China.

Prior to meeting Minister Liu, Hammam warned that illegal gambling on football in China needed to be reined in by the government. “The illegal betting and gambling in China is a black mark on our football but we can't fight it simply through national associations,” he told AFP newsagency. “It requires government intervention to limit this through their own legal system, by putting the appropriate laws in place and enforcing them.

Establishing a well-regulated legal betting system, given the opportunity, can also help in controlling this problem,” he said. “Of course, the revenue can go back into the grassroots, to help develop football and communities.”

Chinese football has long been plagued by corruption, with underground gambling rings at the root of many of the Super League's problems, encouraging referees, players and coaches to fix matches. Before the season began this year, Chinese Football Association chairman Xie Yalong told Super League clubs to mend their “sinful” ways or he would consider abandoning the league.

See also: Great success for Vision China's new "city clubs" (7 Apr) and Call to "purify" Chinese Football's "sinful" ways (10 Mar) and Corruption threatens football growth in China (22 Jun 05)