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President Xi’s visit to boost China-UK football ties

By He Lanying 20 Oct 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived on Monday for his first state visit to the United Kingdom at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II. He will also pay a visit to the Etihad Stadium, home to Premier League team Manchester City, during this state visit. 

The visit has already generated a big buzz in the UK and China alike. Xi’s passion for football has long been known by public as you can see wherever he visits, Xi would be given a sport jersey as a gift. Xi’s great passion also drives him identified several key goals for Chinese football: to host a World Cup and win it.

In order to achieve those goals, the Chinese government announced a reform plan to overhaul on the Chinese sports industry. The plan has also projected a 5 trillion-yuan for the size of sports industry in 2025 and many local governments also crafted out their plans with an overall business size of 7 trillion-yuan, exceeding the center government’s projection of 5 trillion. 

Just ahead of the state visit, President Xi told Reters in an exclusive written interview, “Football is the most popular sport in the world and there are over 100 million football fans in China alone. We will pursue the goals of strengthening football training for the youth, reforming the professional football system, enhancing international cooperation and boosting the football industry.”

In the next five years, football training will be introduced to 20,000 Chinese schools, which means huge potential of cooperation between China and the UK in the training of players, coaches and referees.”

We’ve known that China and the UK have had good ties on football in recent years. In 2012, a cooperation program was launched to promote football in schools and the UK started to train Chinese football coaches at the grassroots level. 

In 2013, the Premier League and the Chinese Super League signed a cooperative deal, and David Beckham was named "ambassador for the youth football program in China and the Chinese Super League". Last month, the two countries signed an MOU to produce future stars in football. 

But why President Xi chose to visit Manchester City considering he’s a long time supporter of the rival team Manchester Uinited?

The British newspaper Mirror even used “China's president has dream of visiting Old Trafford CRUSHED as council send him to Man City instead” as its headline to describe the upcoming visit. 

According to the newsparper, Manchester council leader Sir Richard Leese and chief executive Howard Bernstein are both City fans, so the Chinese President is arranged to go to the Etihad Stadium instead. 

Whether it is true or not, it seems to me, there are some reasons to make this visit a reasonable one.

For one thing, the club has been among the more successful Premier League teams in the last few years both on and off the football field under the ownership of City Football Group who has controlled a series of family football clubs in other countries, making it a successful football business mode for others to learn from. 

Besides, there is a good connection between Chinese player Sun Jihai and Manchester City. Sun is the first Chinese player earned his reputation in the Premier League. He will be accompanying President Xi’s visit to the club. 

Reports have indicated that China could take advice from the club to boost football in the country. It is believed that the visit will further enhance football ties between China and UK. 

Source: Mirror, Reuters and CCTV.

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