China media: Football dreams

Laureus Ambassador Fabio Capello looks on at kids playing football at a football clinic at Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai on February 10, 2015 in Shanghai, China. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption China wants to make football more popular among youngsters

Papers are exuberant over an ambitious state plan to help China's football team qualify for the World Cup.

The detailed soccer development plan released on Monday by the State Council, China's cabinet, called for an overhaul in the administration of the sport to meet "serious goals", the official Xinhua News Agency reports.

The plan hopes to make the sport more popular in the country to attract young talent. The council also wants the country to host the World Cup tournament in the future.

Papers and local football fans have been critical of the national team's performance and its poor ranking.

China's soccer team is currently ranked 83rd by the International Football Federation (FIFA), the Global Times reports.

Welcoming the plan, Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based sports commentator, believes the sport's development will "transcend the playing fields".

"Football, as the world's most popular sport, can drive huge economic growth and mass social participation in China. Its development will also boost the country's cultural soft power," the pundit tells the paper.

The China Daily agrees that though China is the world's second-largest economy, "its soccer performances have been sadly lacking on the international stage".

The daily highlights that corruption, including match-fixing and bribery, has "plagued" the game for a long time, prompting the state leadership to step in to take control.

A Xinhua commentary hails the reform as a "milestone" and an "unprecedented strategy" to clear obstacles for the development of the game.

"This is a reform plan from the party and the state council. It has clearly laid out the strategic position of football at the national level," the state media explains.

It points out that the plan is "also part of the comprehensive deep reform of the Chinese society".

Recalling that the national soccer association was mostly led by "non-professionals", the Beijing News says the revamp will change the much-criticised situation.

"It will even provide a good model for reforming other sports and even official organisations in China," adds the editorial.

'Demonising' Putin

Papers also criticise Western media's attempt to "demonise" Russian President Vladimir Putin with rumours about his "disappearance".

Mr Putin met Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev in St Petersburg on Monday, ending speculation about his absence since 5 March.

His disappearance from public view had sparked rumours that he might have fallen ill.

The Global Times lashes out at Western media outlets for trying to "demonise" Mr Putin.

"Mr Putin has been depicted as a dictator in Western rhetoric," says the daily, pointing out that "the foreign policy of the US and some European powers are made rashly and stubbornly".

The paper, however, adds that China's diplomatic strategy may "benefit from the confrontation between the West and Russia".

A Beijing News commentary believes that "strategic distrust, political and cultural differences" are some of the reasons behind the "low-class rumours" about "Mr Putin's disappearance".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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