Former NBA star Yao Ming said Monday that China's bold step to revive the popularity of football sport in schools was on the right track and could even raise envy from circles of other sports.
China's central reform leading group, captained by President Xi Jinping who is a football fan, in February kicked off a plan to improve its football performance, which has embarrassed the nation in recent years.
More efforts would be made at the grassroots level to nurture young talents and to ensure the integration of professional clubs, school teams and amateur teams, according to the decision.
I am very glad to see that school football has been included in the plan, said Yao, a member of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. It is a very correct decision.
As one who is from the circle of basketball, I must say that I am very envious (of the plan), he told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the top political advisory body.
I hope to see more details about how to implement the plan including the roles that different departments and sectors would play in promoting the reform, he said.
The biggest problem of China's football game is that it is too far from schools, he said. Any cultivation of talent, without the basis of school education, would not be realistic or sustainable.
I hope there will be another plan that promotes basketball in schools in the near future, he added.
China's move to raise the level of football game came as its national team has failed to qualify for the World Cup for the past decade.
China must overcome its defective system, which has impeded the development of the sport, and provide better institutional guarantees for its development, according to the central reform leading group's decision.