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Xi appeals for Sino-British football boost

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Manchester( Championspk)President Xi Jinping called on Friday for China and Britain to strengthen co-operation on football as he ended his four-day state visit to the United Kingdom.

As the birthplace of modern football and boasting strong teams, Britain is the country China should learn from, Xi said.

He said both countries should bolster co-operation and exchanges in the sport to promote friendship between their two peoples.

Football is the sport that most people play in the world and it has an extensive influence and is welcomed deeply by people globally, the president said.

Xi, who is a football fan, made his appeal as he toured the City Football Academy in Manchester where he was presented with a football shirt by Manchester City players.

Accompanied by British Prime Minister David Cameron, he visited the state-of-the-art training facility that includes a 7,000-capacity stadium and 16 football fields. The academy is home to Manchester City Football Club and is the headquarters of its global football organisation.

The president and Cameron posed for a selfie with Sergio Aguero, City’s star Argentine striker. The photo went viral on the Internet.

Xi and Cameron were hosted by Manchester City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak. They watched a training session and met players who helped build the city’s football tradition, including former Manchester United captain Gary Neville and ex-City stars Patrick Vieira and Mike Summerbee.

– See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/xi-appeals-sino-british-football-boost#sthash.ayJuwn00.dpuf

Xi and Cameron also toured the National Football Museum, which houses artifacts including a ball used in the final of the inaugural 1930 World Cup.

The museum presented a copy of the first competition rules for modern world football to Xi as a gift. In return, he presented a cooper statue featuring cuju, an ancient Chinese football game, to the museum and a cooper statue of a cuju doll to Manchester City.

Another highlight of the visit was the induction into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame of Chinese player Sun Jihai, who played 130 times for Manchester City between 2002 and 2008.

Sun, the first Chinese player to score in the English Premier League, was named City’s Ambassador to China last month.

“Xi’s visit to the City Football Academy is a great encouragement for the development of Chinese football,” Sun said, adding that training for young players is the most important task now in China.

With the ongoing football reforms in the country, Sun said he hopes the Chinese national team can make good progress.

Al Mubarak, the City chairman, said,” It was a wonderful moment for all concerned to see Sun Jihai’s contribution to both Manchester and English football recognised by the National Football Museum.

“Today is testament to the club’s strong existing links with China and to our ambitions for them to deepen and grow.”

Xi is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Saturday.

– See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/xi-appeals-sino-british-football-boost#sthash.ayJuwn00.dpuf

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