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Soccer: China Set up LOC for Women's World Cup
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The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 was set up in Beijing on Wednesday with China's top sports official Liu Peng named as the LOC president.

Liu, minister of the State General Administration of Sports, said: "We have 376 days to go before the curtain-raiser for the Women's World Cup raises on September 10, 2007. The organizing work will enter a new and substantial stage after the establishment of the LOC."

FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter conveyed his congratulations through video clips at the news conference: "I am very happy that the 2007 competition will be staged in China for several reasons. As the inaugural tournament was held there, it is, in effect, returning to its roots.

"Furthermore, FIFA was obliged to move the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup from China on account of the SARS epidemic, but promised to stage the subsequent competition on Chinese soil.

"After all, China is considered the cradle of football, as its earliest form - Cuju - saw the light of day there several millennia ago."

A total of 16 teams of the highest level are going to attend next year's Women's World Cup, which will be held from September 10 to 30. Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan, Hangzhou and Chengdu were chosen as the tournament's five host cities of the tournament, with Shanghai conducting both the opening and closing ceremonies.

This will be the second time China will host women's football's premier tournament. The 1991 World Cup, the first Cup in women's football history, also took place on Chinese soil, thanks to its advanced development in the sport.

The golden era of China women's football also began in the 1990's. Runners-up in 1999, when led by FIFA Women's Player of the Year Sun Wen, China was also placed fourth in 1995, after their fifth place at the inaugural 1991 tournament.

China also captured the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics, title trophies at the 1999 Algarve Cup and 1998 Asian Games, and second-place finishes at the 1998 Goodwill Games and the 1994 and 1996 US Women's Cups.

However, after the retirement of the golden generation, China women's football slumped rapidly while countries such as Germany, the USA and Norway, became the sport's dominant powers.

A glimpse of improvement was seen this year when China beat archrivals DPRK in July and won back the Asian Cup, which they had not picked up since 1999.

"I hope our team can advance to the semi-finals, which means they can play all six matches," said Xie Yalong, vice chairman of Chinese Football Association (CFA). "We are now at a transitional period. The team have many young players, and reaching the last four will not be an easy task."

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily August 31, 2006)

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