The first Women’s Football World Cup (WWC) ever held was, believe it or not, hosted by China. Twelve countries participated in the 1991 WWC event that effectively changed the history of women’s football.
Seven World Cups have been played and China has qualified for six; winning second place at the USA 1999 WWC has been their greatest achievement thus far.
However, the National Team has not been doing so well in the last decade; the so-called “Steel Roses” team not even qualifying for the WWC quarterfinals. At the youth level, there are fewer expectations, since China failed to qualify for the latest Under 20 and Under 17 WWCs, were both held last year. Striving to improve the main team, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) signed Bruno Bini (France) as their manager, who had already managed his national team for 7 years. The upcoming challenge for the Steel Roses is the Asian Cup, to be held in Jordan next April.
Chinese football legend Sun Wen was elected FIFA Female Player of the Century through an online poll. In total, she participated in four World Cups, 152 international official matches, scoring 106 goals. She is ranked 5th top goal scorer in World Cup history. She retired from football in 2006, but was part of the coaching staff for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
The local professional league was re-founded in 2015, when the CFA decided to create two divisions, which added promotions and relegations. The 1st tier league was named the Chinese Women Super League (CWSL), while the 2nd was named the Chinese Women Football League (CWFL). Currently the eight participating teams at CWSL comprise Beijing BG, Changchun Zhuoyue, Dalian Quanjian, Hebei Yuangdong, Jiangsu Suning, Shandong JSSF, Shanghai Guotai Jun’an and Tianjin Huisen. Players’ salaries have risen from ¥3,000 in 2014, to ¥10,000 in 2016.
In the last two years, CWSL has received various well-known players such as the African Best Player Awardee of 2015 and 2016, Gaelle Enganamouit (Cameroon), and Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria), who joined the Dalian Quanjian team. Other teams such as Jiangsu Suning have also invested in foreign players, including idol Isabell Herlovsen (Norway), and ex-Dalian player Gabi Zanotti (Brazil). However, the biggest transfer that was made was when the Changchun team bought Cristiane from Paris Saint Germain team, and now she is the highest paid female footballer in the world.
However, since their relaunch, both leagues have received little attention. A serious lack of information and advertising makes it very difficult to know where this female sport is heading. To give an example, the CFA website does not even regularly update posts on their own women’s tournaments. In fact, the site with the most updates is the China Women National Team’s Twitter account, not their Chinese Weibo account.
Here in Nanjing, the Jiangsu Suning team even lacks an official website. Big investments should be backed up by a real show of support and commitment for Women’s football. In the interest of improving Women’s football in China, the sport must be decisively promoted at education centres, particularly middle and high schools, or universities; why not imitate the successful strategy plans of major male football teams to overcome barriers and misguided views that football is only for men?