June 14, 2017

BEIJING (AP) Chinese President Xi Jinping met with FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday amid speculation that China could be planning to bid for a future World Cup.

Xi thanked Infantino for his support for the sports' development in China during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's legislature in the heart of Beijing.

''We are aware of the fact that FIFA is paying more attention to the development of football in China these days, and I do believe China-FIFA cooperation has a good future. Thank you,'' Xi said.

Infantino told Xi, an avowed soccer fan, that FIFA aimed to help fire up a ''new era of football, not only in China, President Xi, but in the whole world because we are really passionate about football.''

The meeting comes as indications are growing that China could bid to host the World Cup either in 2030 or 2034 under a plan launched by Xi's administration to obtain international soccer success.

Along with a massive expansion in the numbers of academies, fields and coaches, Xi's drive aims to turn China's perpetually underperforming team into a World Cup winner by 2050.

China has appeared in one World Cup, in 2002, and drew 2-2 with Syria on Tuesday in a qualifying match, leaving it last in its group.

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