BEIJING, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The 1-0 win over South Korea has not only kept China's World Cup qualifying campaign alive but also inspired the nation's resolve to make its football dream into a reality.
The Chinese have long been dreaming about becoming a world football powerhouse despite almost ceaseless heartbreaks, including the so-called "South Korea-phobia" in the past decade. The only way making that dream come true is to continue working on the expansion plan that has been running for two years.
Since China's central reform group announced big plans for football in early 2015, the country has been battling institutional flaws and trying to drive the game forward.
A major milestone was freeing the Chinese Football Association from government control, changing the organization's management and functions. Now most local football associations are independent.
The professional system is also changing with more international cooperation.
There have been some early successes. The choice of World Cup winner Marcello Lippi as national coach appears to have been the right one.
China probably has more football fans than any other country, and has the ability to make football into a really big business, but results on the field will take time. Success depends on making the sport flourish at the grassroots.
It is embarrassing that China cannot find 11 world-class footballers among 1.3 billion people, but now the country is trying to solve the problem. The number of schools with an emphasis on football has increased from 5,000 to 13,000. There will be 50,000 such schools by 2025. China is encouraging as many college teams as possible. The Ministry of Education has made football compulsory in all schools.
More young people are playing football. With television access to top leagues like the English Premier League and more internationally famous footballers coming to China, the game is gaining more attention. The impressive victory over South Korea will encourage more youngsters to love the sport.
With millions of fans, China hopes one day it will be able to host the World Cup, perchance even win it.
The dream is so far off. But as long as China faces up to the task and continues its progress step by step and generation by generation, the dream may one day come true.