SHANGHAI (AFP) - China’s second-richest man Jack Ma will contribute to a one billion yuan (S$197.3 million) donation over a decade to develop women’s football in the country.
The initiative is backed primarily by Alipay Foundation, the charitable arm of the payment platform, as well as the foundations of Ma and Joe Tsai, the co-founders of online shopping giant Alibaba.
Cai Yong, an executive committee member of the Chinese Football Association, called the gift “unprecedented” in a joint statement on Friday (July 5).
He added: “Women’s football is not just a sport, but also a powerful social cause that encourages girls and women to pursue their dreams and ambitions.”
The funds will be allocated into four main areas:
– Performance improvement of the Chinese women’s national team
– Injury prevention and treatment, and career development of retired footballers
– Technical development and coach education
– Youth development
China made the Women's World Cup - now under way in France - for the seventh time in eight editions, and boasts a record that the men's team can only envy.
But the women's side do more with far less support, and professional women's football in China gets little notice and plays to meagre attendances.
The team put in a respectable showing in France, going out in the round of 16.
But they have slipped below the world's best since reaching the 1999 final against the powerhouse Americans, where China lost on penalties, and insiders worry they will slide further without more backing.
In the ongoing tournament in France, they failed to reach the quarter-finals for the first time and insiders worry they will slide further without more backing.
The three parties aim to make football “more sustainable and accessible to girls and women across the nation” with the billion-dollar funding is nearly five times the US$30 million (S$40.7 million) prize money for this year’s Women’s World Cup.
The initiative also serves as an extension of Alipay’s two-year-long programme to support young girls in Qiongzhong Li and Miao autonomous county, Hainan province, where several girls are enrolled in national youth teams, reported Xinhua news agency.
Alibaba is a minority stakeholder in perennial power Guangzhou Evergrande of the men's Chinese Super League.