Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 09:02
World Cup date offers Xi new goals

World Cup date offers Xi new goals

World Cup date offers Xi new goals
Models in soccer shirts attend an event to celebrate the World Cup at a Hong Kong shopping mall on Monday. (MAYOKYO / FOR CHINA DAILY)

A possible appearance by President Xi Jinping at the World Cup soccer final in Brazil in July has been tipped to boost grassroots enthusiasm for the game while helping him to strengthen ties with the public.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has invited Xi to watch the final on July 13 before he attends the 2014 BRICS summit in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza, according to Valdemar Carneiro Leao, the Brazilian ambassador to China, in an interview with Chinese news website ifeng.com.

The summit will be attended by leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“The year 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Brazil and China. President Xi’s stay in Brazil this year will be a wonderful coincidence,” Leao was quoted as saying in the report.

Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported that the Brazilian president had invited the heads of state attending the BRICS summit to watch the World Cup final.

But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not comment on a potential World Cup trip by Xi.

A micro blog user nicknamed honeyXuanzexingshiyi said on Sina Weibo, China’s largest micro blog platform, on Tuesday: “As the most famous soccer fan in China, President Xi has been too busy taking care of State affairs to enjoy the game. He should go to watch the final and relax a little bit. He deserves it.”

Li Shengxin, a sports public relations expert at Beijing Sport University, said Xi’s association with soccer and public comments on the sport had done more than any public relations campaign to cast him in an approachable light.

“Showing a personal interest in sports is a great way to project a vibrant and healthy leader’s image,” Li said.

Xi has made no secret of his interest in soccer, speaking of his high expectations for the Chinese national team and encouraging young players.

During his visit to Germany in March, he told a group of Chinese junior players who were training in Berlin that he hoped China’s young players would produce outstanding international stars for the future.

Despite high prices, 1,500 World Cup packages including tickets, travel and accommodation are expected to have been sold in China this year, twice the number for the World Cup in 2010, according to Shankai Sports International, the official World Cup ticket agency in China.