Lofty goal: China spreads football to 10,000 kindergartens

China is rolling out football programmes across 10,000 kindergartens in a fresh effort to popularise the beautiful game in the world's most populous country, which is still struggling to produce world-class players.

The Chinese Football Association announced plans Wednesday to bring specialised programmes to promote soccer among three- to six-year-olds across China by 2020.

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The goal is to introduce football as a standard form of recreation to kindergartens and instil interest in the sport at an early age, as well as cultivate leadership skills in Chinese youth.

A CFA spokesman told AFP the programmes are mainly about "having fun", not necessarily preparing children to become professional players.

The association is also organising a "Promoting Kids Football Month" in October, which includes football-themed seminars and matches, such as the U13-U17 National Finals of the Youth League.

President Xi Jinping, an avid fan of the sport, wants the country's football team to be the world's best by 2050, despite consistently low rankings and a sole appearance at the World Cup in 2002.

In 2016, the government issued a lengthy plan on how to cultivate a world-class team, such as having 20,000 football academies and 30 million elementary and middle school students playing by 2020.

The Chinese Super League, meanwhile, has attracted top foreign players such as Brazil's Paulinho or Argentina's Javier Mascherano and managers including Italy's Fabio Cannavaro, though the CFA has recently cracked down on massive transfer fees.

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