More problems for China as youth system slips "into a state of paralysis"

The Chinese Football Association has apologised for its Olympic team's early exit from the 2012 London Olympics qualifying rounds. "We are sorry that the Chinese U-23 team missed the opportunity to claim a berth at the London Olympics after losing to Oman," the CFA said in a newsletter posted on its official website as quoted by China Daily. "We sincerely apologize to the fans and take responsibility for the defeat. The CFA is willing to accept all suggestions and criticism from the society.

"The development of Chinese soccer has stumbled through a lot of problems and we must work hard to find solutions," the CFA said in the letter. "The poor foundation of teenage soccer has led to a shortage of domestic soccer talent, which has directly affected the overall competitiveness of the sport. We will work hard to reverse the situation."

According to Wei Di, who took over the CFA last January, "the training system of Chinese teenage soccer has slipped into a state of paralysis over the past few years, and we are beginning to pay for the mistakes now."

He told Chinese newspaper Beijing Times that shortage of games was also hampering development: "Taking the Olympic team as an example, it is lacking experience on the field. You cannot make progress merely by training ... According to our statistics, the CFA currently organizes about 44,000 matches a year, while the association of Germany organizes more than 70,000 games annually; that's a huge gap."

According to China Sports Daily, there were more than 650,000 players under the age of 18 registered with the CFA in 1995. However, that number dwindled to 30,000 in 2007. The players in the current Chinese Olympic squad were selected from only 320 players.