Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with FIFA president Gianni Infantino in Beijing, capital of China, June 14, 2017. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
BEIJING, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping met with FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.
Xi, an avid football fan, noted that the Chinese government attached great significance to the development of football and provided strong and consistent support for the sport, although China lagged far behind traditional football powerhouses for years in terms of both the sport's domestic popularity and competence on the pitch.
China's central reform group, which is chaired by President Xi, approved a reform plan in February 2015 in an effort to inject life into its football culture. The reforms involve almost every aspect of the sport, including the management system, professional clubs, professional leagues, the national teams and grassroots football.
"We are promoting the philosophy of football among the whole society. The reform on the sport's management system is also well under way. More efforts are being made in youth football programs, the construction of football pitches and international exchanges. We hope to raise the standard of Chinese football step by step, and lend support to Chinese people's pursuit of the Chinese dream," said Xi.
Xi also thanked Infantino for his support for football development in China.
"President Infantino, since becoming the president of FIFA you have provided great support to the development and reform of football as a sport in China," said Xi. "I wish to express my appreciation for what you have done."
"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 that China-FIFA cooperation has a good future," he added.
Infantino spoke highly of Xi's vision about the development and reform of football, saying China is a high priority in FIFA's global development strategy.
"We can really start a new era of football, not only in China, President Xi, but in the whole world because we are really passionate about football," said Infantino.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong was also present during the meeting.