China under-21s hit for six by Leverkusen

BEIJING, May 17 (Reuters) - China's football chief Wei Di got an inkling of the scale of the task he faces in rejuvenating the national team when the under-21 side were thrashed 6-1 by German side Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend.

Just a few months into the job he was handed when his predecessor was arrested for corruption, Wei was barracked by fans as the Bundesliga club ran riot in southern Guangdong on Saturday.

"I did not know what the team was like until now. Looking at this match, the team still needs a lot of work," Wei told Monday's edition of the Workers Daily newspaper.

The calls for Wei's sacking by fans at the 36,000-seat Foshan Stadium on Saturday indicated that whatever honeymoon period he had enjoyed was well and truly over.

Wei felt the gulf in class between the two sides made his plan to improve China's national teams by exposing players to more top level competition even more urgent.

"Only through constant training and high level competition can they improve," he said.

"We have shaken up our scheme and the under-21s will now play the (Chinese Super League) CSL teams during the mid-season break in June."

The successful head of China's water sports under the state system, Wei had already crossed swords with China's lively sports media when he announced his plan to play the junior national squads as wild cards in the professional leagues.

The plan was denounced as "crazy" by critics, some of whom suggested he had been kicked in the head by a donkey.

Wei later admitted it had been a mistake but insisted he still wanted to create more playing time for the national squads, and he had one supporter for his plan in under-21 coach Liu Chunming.

"We are behind them (Leverkusen) in every aspect," Liu said after the match. "The match only proved how badly we need high quality matches to play."

The senior Chinese team will get a chance to restore national pride when they take on Leverkusen, who were fourth in the Bundesliga this year, on Wednesday in Jiangsu.