TOKYO -- Soccer aficionado Xi Jinping, the president of China, told FIFA President Gianni Infantino that his nation would like to play host to the game's biggest tournament.
In a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, Xi "expressed his hope, and the dream of many Chinese people, that China would have the opportunity to host a FIFA Men's World Cup at some stage in the future," FIFA said in a statement.
Chinese state media did not mention the exchange in its coverage earlier. "Xi, an avid football fan, noted that the Chinese government attached great significance to the development of football," Xinhua News Agency reported in a rare playful description of the country's leader.
It also said China has lagged "far behind traditional football powerhouses for years, in terms of both the sport's domestic popularity and competence on the pitch."
According to Xinhua, Xi told Infantino: "We are promoting the philosophy of football among the whole society. We hope to raise the standard of Chinese football step by step, and lend support to Chinese people's pursuit of the Chinese dream."
Neither account of the meeting mentioned a proposal by South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, to have South Korea, North Korea, China and Japan host the 2030 World Cup jointly. Moon told Infantino of the idea when they met in Seoul on Monday. The FIFA chief said he would ask Xi about the proposal when they met in Beijing.
China is said to be aiming to host either the 2030 or 2034 tournament.