China’s vice sports minister, a former table tennis world champion, has accepted the task of turning around his country’s football fortunes.
Though Cai Zhenhua won repeated Olympic and world championships as head coach of the country’s men’s table tennis team, he faces a taller order in piloting a football program that has reached just one World Cup (2002).
“There are so many heavy tasks and time is limited. I just want to say three words: determination, confidence, and perseverance,” Cai told Xinhua.
The football team is currently ranked 92nd in FIFA’s world rankings between New Zealand and Estonia.
“The stern reality of Chinese soccer forces us to make complete changes,” said Cai. “I am burdened with a colossal task.”
Cai, 53, replaces 75-year old Yuan Weimin. It is the first time in a decade CFA leadership has seen such a change.
Analysts say China has a number of problems, including a lack of young people in football academies, a weak domestic league, and rampant match-fixing.
Cai’s first task will be finding a head coach for the men’s national team. Jose Antonio Camacho was fired in June.
By INSIDER’s Nick Devlin