One of the women's game's all-time greats, Sun Wen, was a notable figure among officials from the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007's Local Organising Committee (LOC) who flocked to Beijing early this week for its sixth meeting this year.
Having played in all the four past editions of FIFA Women's World Cup, the USA 1999 Golden Ball and Golden Boot-winner has found herself a new role 10 months from the showpiece event: that of the Shanghai Football Association's Deputy General Secretary.
" Shanghai is one of the five FIFA Women's World Cup venues and will play host to the FIFA delegation and the teams who will play eight important games here, including the final," explained Sun. "Events like the opening and closing ceremonies will also be staged in this city, so as citizen of Shanghai, I am very proud to offer my contribution in the preparatory work."
The goalscoring legend excelled throughout her illustrious playing career, and she also stood out since hanging up her boots, both as a dedicated university student and an accomplished football journalist. However, Sun Wen spoke modestly to FIFA.com about the challenges awaiting her in this new post.
"I was only appointed the new job last Friday and this is the first official meeting I have attended," she explained. "My scope of responsibilities will focus on marketing side, an area about which I need to learn a lot."
Sun Wen agreed that it is her iconic status on which Shanghai FA will want to capitalise in order to attract maximum attention. "It is nice that I can still do something in the fifth Women's World Cup and this also fits my role as FIFA Ambassador," she added.
A fruitful year
While Sun spoke with only cautious optimism about her new job, Chinese Football Association and LOC boss Xie Yalong was less reserved in his summing-up speech at the end of the two-day meeting. As he pointed out, the LOC have left a fruitful year behind.
"Three major tasks have been accomplished under FIFA's guidelines as we have launched the LOC, chosen and inspected the five World Cup venues and had the fixtures confirmed," he said.
Women football has long been regarded as China's strongest footballing suit, with the Steel Roses having won silver in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Football Tournament and finished runners-up at USA 1999. However, for all the popularity that the women's game enjoys across the world's most populous nation, Xie warned LOC not to be over-optimistic as success in the US in 1999 and 2003 has already set a high benchmark.
"In USA 1999 the average attendance each game reached an unprecedented 37,000 and even after the closedown of WUSA, the 2003 event still saw this number reach 21,000," he said. "We need to be practical and realistic while continuing to pile on efforts in preparatory work."
Wuhan waits on Final Draw
The pressure for work was even more felt by Zhang Jin, a LOC member who represents the Wuhan venue, where the Final Draw will be staged on 22 April.
"We are working against time as we have merely five months from the Final Draw," said the deputy director of Wuhan Sports Bureau.
Zhang was impressed by the efficiency and professionalism the FIFA delegation showed in the previous inspection trip in September, and he believes that the Final Draw at Wuhan's Guanggu International Conference Centre will pass off successfully.
Zhang also confirmed that there will be an entertainment programme to add to the "grace and excellence" of the FIFA ceremony, and told FIFA.com that it will be based on Chinese culture. "It is top secret for us," he said with a smile, "but I would like to tell you that you can see how the Cuju (the old football played by the ancient Chinese) will be played during the draw."