By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
BEIJING (AP) — Former FIFA female player of the year Sun Wen has been elected as vice president of the Chinese Football Association as China seeks to revamp its lagging national program.
Sun, who became captain of the Chinese team in 2000, is currently director of the women’s youth training department at the CFA.
Sun scored 16 goals over two Olympic and four World Cup tournaments, including the 1999 edition in which China was runner-up to the United States. She also played two seasons with the Atlanta Beat of the now-defunct Women’s United Soccer Association.
Also on Aug. 22, Chen Xuyuan, former president of Shanghai International Port Group which owns China Super League team Shanghai SIPG, was elected CFA president and former China national team coach Gao Hongbo and deputy sports minister Du Zhaocai were also voted in as vice chairmen.
The Chinese women’s team is 16th in FIFA rankings and its men 71st.
Coached by former Italy manager Marcello Lippi, China is pushing ahead with a reform program issued in 2015 that envisions the men qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and becoming a top-ranked national team by 2050. That includes allowing the China Super League to operate along more market-oriented lines with greater independence from the CFA.
It would also nationalized Chinese players onto the national team, including London-born Nico Yennaris and, most recently, Brazilian-born Elkeson, who, while having no Chinese heritage, qualified under FIFA’s five-year residency requirement.
China’s World Cup qualifying campaign begins away against the Maldives on Sept. 10.
The country’s lack of success in international football—having qualified for only one World Cup in 2002 under Bora Milutinovic—has long confounded China’s leaders.
President and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping has taken a personal interest in changing its fortunes, ordering a massive program of youth leagues, football academies and pitch construction.