BEIJING – Naturalized players cannot be expected to bring significant changes to Chinese football, said former captain for the Chinese team Fan Zhiyi.

In a video shown on Wednesday, Fan, who captained China to the 2002 World Cup finals, said he shared the opinion of his former teammate Li Tie, current head coach of the Chinese men’s team, on the issue of naturalized players.

“I agree with Li Tie that the naturalized players are not a cure for everything. We have to depend on Chinese players to improve our football,” the former Crystal Palace defender said.

Naturalized players can help encourage young Chinese players to work hard, according to Fan.

“The naturalized players come to take job chances, then the local young players have to train hard to make themselves capable enough to compete with the naturalized players,” the 50-year-old former Shanghai football icon said.

British-born Li Ke became the first naturalized player to play for China when he featured in a friendly against the Philippines on June 7, 2019.

Brazilian-born striker Ai Kesen was the other naturalized player to have played for China. He scored twice on his debut on September 11, 2019 when China beat the Maldives 5-0 in a World Cup qualifier.

China currently sits in second place in the five-team Group A with seven points from four games, eight points behind group leaders Syria, and is in danger of missing out on the final round of the Asian Olympic qualifiers.

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