Camacho defended

Updated: 2011-11-20 08:10

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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Camacho defended

Dalian Wanda wants to make it clear: hiring Jose Antonio Camacho was the right thing to do.

The company, a major sponsor of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), clarified that it still thinks replacing Gao Hongbo as coach of the national team was a good decision, despite the team's early elimination from World Cup qualifying.

In a multi-million-dollar deal with the CFA in July, Dalian Wanda promised to spend 500 million yuan ($77.3 million) over three years to boost the sport in China. One month later, Spain's Camacho (pictured) replaced Gao.

The hasty reshuffling of the coaching staff was criticized as one of the reasons for China's exit after the team missed the final-round Asian Zone qualifier of the 2014 World Cup, which would have put the sponsor at center stage.

"What I want to say is China only has 7,000 soccer players registered - under such circumstances, anytime could be the right time to change the coach," said Dalian Wanda spokesman Shi Xueqing. "Wanda invited the foreign coach according to our cooperation contract with CFA, and both of us have worked hard on it.

"The national team's result was a reflection of the real level of Chinese soccer, and it's not right to blame Camacho for the loss," he said. "Having Camacho in charge of the team was not merely (an attempt to win) one match. Instead, CFA's original purpose is to introduce advanced soccer philosophy, and develop Chinese soccer in the long run. Therefore, I hope the public can look at things on a long-term horizon."

According to early reports of the deal, Wanda would spend 40 million yuan ($6.26 million) a year to send young players overseas. In the past three months, nobody has been sent abroad under Wanda's sponsorship; in the meantime, the CFA has sent dozens of young players to Portugal in cooperation with another Chinese company.

Chinese media reported Wanda stopped sponsoring the CFA's overseas program and is running the program itself. But Shi said the two sides made it clear in the contract that Wanda would run the youth program itself.

"We have written in the contract that the overseas program was the only thing Wanda wanted to operate alone. We will choose 30 talented players through a series of selections and send them abroad to train in countries powerful in soccer," Shi said. "It's not like the rumors said that the decision will be made after a discussion with CFA."

"Up to now, we have had talked and negotiated with three Spanish clubs - all of them are ranked among the top eight in La Liga," he said. "The result of our negotiation was very optimistic, and we have reached the prerequisites to sign contracts with all three clubs."

(China Daily 11/20/2011 page8)