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    China's President Xi Jinping (R) meets FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 14, 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 June 2017

Chinese President is a soccer fan and wants to improve the game in his country

China's President Xi Jinping has held talks with FIFA's President Gianni Infantino as pundits wager when Beijing will make a bid to host the World Cup.


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Xi promised to continue efforts to better the game in his country during the meeting in the Chinese capital on Wednesday.

He said "There is still a very large disparity in the general standard of China's football today compared to major footballing nations".

Xi, an avid fan, has launched an ambitious drive to boost Chinese soccer from the ground up, and has spoken of his wish for China to qualify for another World Cup, to host the tournament, and eventually to win one.

Beijing has invested heavily in the sport in recent years, boosting its Super League with some high-profile, big-money international signings.

Its growing influence within FIFA was reflected in the election of Zhang Jian to the governing body's council in May, and FIFA has appointed a number of Chinese companies as sponsors for the forthcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar.

But its national team continues to struggle: they have only once qualified for the World Cup -- in 2002, when the team lost all three matches and failed to score a goal.

Ranked 82nd by FIFA, China is all but certain to miss out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, after a late goal cost the team victory against Syria in their most recent match on Tuesday.

Speculation has grown that China wishes to launch a bid to host the competition in either 2030 or 2034.

Xi told Infantino that his hope is to cultivate a soccer culture for everyone and build world-class academies.

"The true meaning of football is not just about competition, it is more about cultivating people's patriotism and collective fighting spirit," Xi said.

Infantino commended China on attaching such great importance to soccer and promoting the sport to its people.

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