(Reuters) – Chinese women’s soccer received a major financial boost on Friday after Ant Financial’s Alipay said it would provide 1 billion yuan ($145.43 million) in funding for a 10-year project.
The initiative was being funded primarily by charitable organization the Alipay Foundation and would look to make the sport more accessible to girls and women across the country, Alipay said in a statement.
The funds would be allocated to improve the national team set-up, youth development, coaching education as well as the welfare of retired professionals.
“We are very grateful for Alipay’s unprecedented, 10-year commitment to women’s football in China,” said Cai Yong, executive committee member of the Chinese Football Association (CFA).
“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 Chinese women’s team have traditionally been more competitive on the international stage than the men’s side, finishing runners-up at the 1999 women’s World Cup and fourth at the 1995 tournament.
At the ongoing World Cup in France, China reached the last 16 where they lost 2-0 to Italy.
The Chinese men’s team have qualified for the World Cup only once, in 2002 when they were eliminated in the group phase after losing all three games.
($1 = 6.8763 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)