By Sportswriters Zheng Daojin, Gong Bing
BEIJING, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- A sudden administrative change struck the Chinese Football Association (CFA) on Thursday, with its head set to be replaced after three years' mediocre reign.
Wei Di, 58, is likely to be replaced by Zhang Jian, director of Policy and Regulation Department of the State General Administration of Sport (SGAS), according to a senior SGAS official who asked not to be named.
Wei took office at the beginning of 2010 after CFA vice presidents Nan Yong and Yang Yimin were taken away by the police for their alleged involvement in corruption and match-fixing.
We, hailed as a "firefighter" at the time, showed his ability in nation-wide crackdown on soccer corruption and the running of the Chinese Super League (CSL), which had been at the edge of collapse. Later he called himself as "a paving stone" in the rebuilding of Chinese soccer, saying that the development needs time and patience.
However, a series of poor results of the Chinese national teams brought him a lot of criticism from media and fans. During Wei's tenure, China failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2012 London Olympic Games. In the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, China was ousted after the group stage, and the U19 and U17 sides were both eliminated at the Asian youth championships without a single win. The women's national team was out of the World Cup for the first time and missed the London Olympic Games.
Wei had been the director of the Water Sports Administrative Center before he took the helm of the CFA.
"Maybe he is an expert in water sports, but he knows little about soccer techniques and tactics. Why dosn't the CFA replace him with an expert in soccer?" Wang Jun, an avid soccer fan, told Xinhua.
Media blames him for replacing native coach Gao Hongbo with Spanish Jose Antonio Camacho just before the World Cup Asian qualifiers, saying Wei's decision led to China's early exit after three straight defeats by Jordan and Iraq.
Whether these criticisms are right or wrong, one thing for sure is that under Wei, Chinese soccer hasn't found its own technical style and the right tactical mode in training and teaching the players.
Wei, however, has brought some improvement to the CSL and the nurturing of grassroots soccer. With giants like Guangzhou Evergrande club shinning at the Asian Champions League, more and more fans began to watch the CSL games, which also attracted big names like Diego Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Seydou Keita, Lucas Barrios and famous coaches like Macello Lippi and Camacho. More and more CSL investors began to put in big money and last year the average attendance for a game climbed to a record high 18,700.
Under Wei's charge, school soccer welcomed a new developing period, the government raised budget to bolster youth soccer. According to CFA statistics, some 2.7 million primary school pupils and middle school students from 4,579 schools took part in the game in the year 2012. And the CFA has set several programs to invite experienced FIFA lecturers to train the Chinese youth coaches, and to build some cooperation with cities like Dalian, Wuhan, Qingdao to support the youth grassroots soccer.
Wei Di also made great efforts in asking big enterprises to send young talent abroad for advanced training. Now China has youngsters training in Spain, Portugal, France and Brazil, from which may rise some future stars.
Just as Wei Di comments on himself, he is more like a transitional leader and his main task is to do a lot of basic work to stabilize the "root".
Wei's departure is not a sign for the end of an era, as a lot of basic work still needs to be done in the new chief's time.