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2022-10-26 10:56:54

China has set out ambitious goals for its women's soccer players, promising more investment and talent to make them a leading team globally. But the plan fell short on details about the salaries for female players, even as fans demanded pay parity with their male counterparts after a historic win earlier this year.

The country aims to rank among the top eight teams in the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup, to be jointly held in Australia and New Zealand in 2023, as well as in the Summer Olympics the following year, according to the plan that envisages to reform and develop the sport. China also plans to lead the rankings in Asia by 2025 and become a dominant team globally by the next decade.

“Winning is the benchmark,” said the plan jointly released Monday by the ministries of sports, education, and finance, along with the Chinese Football Association, which aims to host the Women’s World Cup in 2031.

The road map for the development of the Chinese women’s team comes just months after their historic win at the 2022 Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup in February. The win elevated their status in the country and comes in stark contrast to their male counterparts, who have struggled to climb up the rankings but are able to snatch sponsorship deals and higher pay.

While many celebrated their triumph, fans were quick to point out the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s teams.

A 2018 report by the Chinese Football Association showed that fewer than 20% of female players earned a monthly salary of over 10,000 yuan ($1,570). A separate report by the state broadcaster China Central Television the same year found that most of the top 10 matches — both domestic and international — in terms of TV ratings were played by men’s teams.

Monday’s plan left out details about the pay structure for the women’s soccer team. However, it said that local governments, enterprises, and individuals will invest in more women’s soccer clubs to “diversify and balance” their income, suggesting it would ultimately benefit the players financially.

Currently, the Chinese women’s soccer team is ranked 15th in the FIFA women’s rankings, while the men’s team is in 79th place. The women are fourth in the Asian rankings.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: High school soccer players compete during a match in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Sept. 18, 2022. VCG)