Former Liaoning sports official Song Kai was elected as president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) at the organization’s membership national conference on Monday. Soccer fans have pinned their hopes on Song to revitalize Chinese soccer following the start of an ongoing anti-graft campaign since November 2022 that has seen more than a dozen soccer-related officials investigated.
The 58-year-old has been working as a vice head of the preparatory group for the CFA election since June. Song has been the man at the helm of China’s sports powerhouse Liaoning Province in Northeast China since 2016.
During his tenure, the province successfully revitalized its “three major ball” games – soccer, basketball and volleyball – highlighted by its basketball team the Liaoning Flying Leopards’ triple triumphs in the domestic basketball league CBA.
“We will try our best to build a more united, more hardworking, more open, more transparent and more courageous CFA in the future,” Song was quoted as saying at the conference.
The current deputy minister of China’s General Administration of Sport, Li Yingchuan, was chosen to serve as the CFA’s Party secretary.
“We should learn from the profound lessons of systemic corruption in soccer, resolutely abandon the idea of quick success and instant benefits, be prepared for a long and hard struggle and adhere to the long-term success step by step,” Li was reported to have said.
The CFA elected Sun Wen, Yuan Yongqing, Yang Xu, and Xu Jiren as vice presidents; Sun is the only vice president who was elected from the previous membership conference and is a legend in Chinese women’s soccer.
Yuan, who is 50 years old and also known as the secretary-general of the CFA, previously served in the Chinese Basketball Association. Yang, who oversaw China’s softball leagues as president, will now be in charge of the country’s professional soccer leagues. Senior sports writer Xu works for the Xinhua News Agency.
The association has elected Gao Hongbo as its technical director. Hongbo is a former vice president of CFA who stayed steadfast during the ongoing anti-graft campaign and was part of the planning committee for the CFA election.
Apart from the president and vice presidents, Wang Shuang, a well-known female soccer player, and Zheng Zhi, a former men’s national team captain, are among the 20 members of the executive committee that was chosen by the conference.
Investigated for accepting bribes since November 2022 are Du Zhaocai, a former vice chairman of the CFA and deputy head of the General Administration of Sport of China, Chen Xuyuan, a former president of the CFA, and a number of other senior Chinese soccer officials.
An insider in the soccer industry in Beijing says there’s still a chance other soccer officials will be looked into as long as the anti-corruption campaign is ongoing.
“It is wishful thinking to say that the damage done to the CFA due to corruption can be fully removed with new leadership,” the consultant stated.