BEIJING (AP) — China's former table tennis coach was named head of the national football association Tuesday in the latest bid to lift the country's dismal performance in the sport.
China dominates world table tennis and Cai Zhenhua's appointment speaks to the nation's hopes that those winning ways will rub off on its footballers.
China has only qualified for one World Cup, in 2002, and its poor football results contrast starkly with the country's stellar performance in other sports. Although China came second in the medal tally at the London Olympics, its football team currently stands at 92 in FIFA's world rankings, one rung above tiny Estonia.
Local analysts say China's problems are deep seated, with not enough young people enrolled in football academies and a weak domestic league. Corruption has also been a serious issue, with two former association heads among eight officials and players sentenced in 2012 for taking bribes and other crimes.
Cai was a world champion as a table tennis player and was head coach of the men's team from 1991 to 2004, a period when China won repeated Olympic and world championships.
His most pressing task will be hiring a head coach for the men's national team, leaderless since the firing of Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho in June.