Beijing (AFP) – China’s football-mad President Xi Jinping will meet with FIFA chief Gianni Infantino in Beijing on Wednesday as the world’s most populous nation harbours ambitions of hosting the World Cup.
Xi will greet the president of football’s world governing body Infantino at the palatial Great Hall of the People, the government said, without providing any details about the agenda.
The meeting follows widespread speculation that China will bid to host the World Cup either in 2030 or 2034.
Xi wants his country to host the global football extravaganza and hopes Chinese national team can one day win the sport’s most prestigious trophy.
But China, who languish down at 82nd in FIFA’s world rankings just below Benin and the tiny Faroe Islands, look certain to miss out on qualification for Russia 2018.
China have appeared in just one World Cup, in 2002, where they lost all three group matches and failed to score a goal.
Qatar, who are part of the Asian Football Confederation, are due to host the 2022 World Cup, meaning China will not be eligible to bid for the 2026 tournament because of FIFA’s policy of rotating between host continental governing bodies.
Chinese Football Association Vice President Zhang Jian, a member of the FIFA Council which devises the institution’s global strategy, said last year he would back a Chinese World Cup in 2030.
Three major Chinese companies have signed sponsorship deals with FIFA in the space of a year, fuelling speculation that China is preparing a World Cup bid.
But the Asian giant already faces stiff competition from Europe’s football governing body, UEFA, which is eyeing the 2030 tournament.
This would leave 2034 as the next great hope for Beijing.