Fri, Jun 16, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Xi Jinping informs Infantino that China wants to host Cup

Reuters, BEIJING

Chinese President Xi Jinping told FIFA president Gianni Infantino he hoped the nation could host a World Cup “in the future,” the governing body for world soccer said on Wednesday after the two met in Beijing.

Xi, an avid soccer fan, has launched an ambitious drive to improve Chinese soccer from the ground up and spoken of his hope for the nation to qualify for another World Cup, host the tournament and eventually win it.

China has invested heavily in the sport in recent years, boosting its domestic league by signing a number of high-profile, international players and coaches.

In a statement, FIFA said Xi and Infantino’s meeting centered on soccer’s popularity in China and the government’s commitment to improving access to the game.

“In addition, the Chinese President expressed his hope, and the dream of many Chinese people, that the country would have the opportunity to host a FIFA Men’s World Cup at some stage in the future,” it said.

Chinese state media outlets, which are tightly controlled by the government and especially so when reporting the official activities of senior Chinese Communist Party leaders, did not report Xi’s World Cup comment.

Nevertheless, speculation has grown that China wishes to launch a bid for either the 2030 or 2034 tournaments.

China’s 82nd-ranked national team have qualified only once for the World Cup, losing all three matches and failing to score a goal in the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan.

Their failure to return to the finals has long frustrated local fans.

China are all but certain to miss out on qualifying for next year’s tournament in Russia after a late goal by Syria saw them finish with a 2-2 draw on Tuesday.

“There is still a very large disparity in the general standard of China’s football today compared to major footballing nations,” state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying in his meeting with Infantino.

“The true meaning of football is not just about competition, it is more about cultivating people’s patriotism and collective fighting spirit,” it said.

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