CFA denies 'exclusive' report of Cup bid

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-17 08:58

The Chinese Football Association is denying a published report "quoting" national team coach Marcello Lippi on the country's intention to bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.

In a statement released hours after the report went viral on Thursday, the CFA said Chengdu Economic Daily's supposed "exclusive interview" with Lippi was false and misleading, and was fabricated out of previous news items.

"The coach has never conducted any form of exclusive interview with any media outlets recently, and the CFA hasn't come to any decision on when the country will bid for the World Cup," added the statement.

The Chengdu-based publication claimed Lippi addressed a variety of subjects, including the failures of China and Italy to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, China's soccer reform plan and his experiences working here - with the help of a "specially hired correspondent" from Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"What I also want to tell you is that the Chinese FA will bid for the 2030 World Cup," Lippi was quoted as saying.

Former Italy and Juventus boss Lippi took the national team's reins last fall after leading Guangzhou Evergrande to its first AFC Champions League title in 2013.

CFA denies 'exclusive' report of Cup bid

Although China failed to qualify for the World Cup, the Italian remains highly regarded here thanks to an improvement in performances and results since his appointment.

Despite the CFA's denial of a 2030 bid, China's ambition to host soccer's showcase has been no secret since the launch of the country's soccer reform plan in 2015.

The reforms were inspired by President Xi Jinping, who had previously stated his wish to see China host and eventually win the World Cup.

In May, the CFA refuted a rumor that it was targeting a bid for the 2034 tournament.

Still, many observers reckon China would be an appealing choice for FIFA.

"Facility-wise, it's never a problem for China to host international events, but the low competitive level of the game and the under-developed soccer culture here make the country a less compelling bidder," said Tan Jianxiang, a sports sociology expert at South China Normal University.

Meanwhile, China's improving relationship with FIFA indicates the global governing body is warming to the idea.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino visited China in June and met Xi in person, with the soccer chief lauding the attempts to grow the game here.

In addition, Chinese companies, including real-estate giant Dalian Wanda Group and e-commerce leader Alibaba, have become major FIFA commercial partners.

(China Daily 11/17/2017 page24)

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