The government in east China’s Jiangsu province has released an ambitious plan to cultivate football talent among young people after President Xi Jinping repeatedly emphasised his “football dreams” for China.

Jiangsu is to build 1,000 football schools, including 100 football kindergartens, and train up 10,000 “registered school footballers” by 2020, according to a document released on the provincial education bureau’s website.

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Chinese students having a football class. Photo:

Local governments in Jiangsu have been urged to allocate more money and resources to opening football classes for students and holding regular matches.

President Xi is a dedicated football fan who is never shy to talk publicly about his ambition to change the sorry state of Chinese football.

In 2011, Xi told visiting South Korean diplomats that he has three wishes for Chinese football – for the Chinese national team to enter the World Cup, for them to one day win the World Cup and for China to host the World Cup. One of the diplomats had given Xi a football signed by Korean player Park Ji-Sung.

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In 2008, then vice president Xi Jinping played football in a Beijing stadium wearing leather shoes. Photo: 163 News.

In 2013, Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan told the state-owned Xinhua news agency in an interview that Xi sometimes stayed up late to watch live football games.

Earlier this year, Xi paid a special visit to the Manchester City football club during his UK state visit, accompanied by Prime Minster David Cameron.

Jiangsu is not the only local government which has responded to Xi’s football ambitions. The Gansu government said this week that it aims to build 600 football schools by 2017. The Henan government said it will combine football with Chinese martial arts and open a “Kungfu football school.”

Earlier this month, Brazilian football legend Ronaldo said he had struck a deal with investors to open 30 football schools under his name in China.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.