BEIJING: The Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced Monday that it is reducing the number of foreign players a team can field as the country’s cash-rich clubs continue to lure international talent.
Teams in the top-flight Chinese Super League will be able to field no more than three foreigners per match when the new 2017 season begins in March, according to the new rules posted on the official CFA web site.
Previously four non-Chinese players were allowed, provided one was from an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) country.
The decision would be “advantageous for the overall development of Chinese football, advantageous for the cultivatation of Chinese local footballers and advantageous for raising the level of China’s national team” the CFA said in the statement.
The organisation said that it would also be taking action to curb the “recent appearance of irrational investments and the payment of high transfer fees and salaries for domestic and foreign footballers.”
China last month broke the Asian transfer record for the fifth time in a year when Shanghai SIPG paid Chelsea 60 million euros for Brazilian midfielder Oscar.
At the same time across the city, Shanghai Shenhua were reportedly making Argentina’s former Manchester United and Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez the world’s highest-salaried player.
The two were the latest in a stream of foreign players flowing into China in recent years in return for eye-watering sums, with Chelsea’s unsettled Brazil-born Spain striker Diego Costa reportedly linked to a big-money bid from Jiangsu Suning in recent days.
But fans and authorities fear that the influx of foreign talent will come at the cost of potential home-grown heroes.
China, ranked 82nd in the world, punch well below their weight in international competition, having qualified only once for the World Cup finals, in 2002, where they failed to win a match or score a goal.
Big business backers of Chinese Super League clubs, encouraged by football fan President Xi Jinping’s vision of China becoming one of the game’s superpowers, hosting and winning a World Cup, have splashed money on their teams alongside heavy investment in grass-roots development.