Wang Shijie, 11, is a rising star among the nearly 3,000 students at Guangzhou Evergrande’s huge soccer academy in south China. He wants to join the national team and help achieve President Xi Jinping’s dream of winning the World Cup.

A student controls the ball during a training session at Evergrande soccer academy in Qingyuan

In schools like this around the country, China is training an army of young players it hopes will help the nation shake off its lowly place in the world’s football ladder: 84th out of 209 countries, just above Qatar and below teams like Jordan, Montenegro and Gabon.

“When I join the national team, I will do my best to help China become World Cup champions,” Wang, wearing golden-coloured boots and a yellow jersey, told Reuters during a break in training at the school that has 50 full-size pitches and coaches flown in from European giant Real Madrid.

Led by Xi, an avid fan, China has clearly made it a goal to become a soccer superpower. A consortium led by state-backed China Media Capital took a $400 million stake last week in the owner of English Premier League champions Manchester City – Beijing’s biggest investment in the sport overseas. Read More

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