Manchester United fan Xi meets the stars during visit to city rivals

2015-10-24 02:31:13 GMT2015-10-24 10:31:13(Beijing Time)  Shanghai Daily
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) stands with President Xi Jinping (C) and Manchester City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak (3rd R) during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain October 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies] Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) stands with President Xi Jinping (C) and Manchester City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak (3rd R) during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain October 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
President Xi poses for a selfie with his British counterpart David Cameron and Manchester City player Sergio Kun Aguero (C), during his visit to Manchester City Football Club Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Manchester City FC Twitter account] President Xi poses for a selfie with his British counterpart David Cameron and Manchester City player Sergio Kun Aguero (C), during his visit to Manchester City Football Club Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Manchester City FC Twitter account]
"Thank you for the selfie, President Xi" 感谢能与您自拍,习主席!" wrote Aguero on City's official Twitter feed.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron stands with President Xi Jinping during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies] Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron stands with President Xi Jinping during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and President Xi Jinping view the football used in the first World Cup final during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies] Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and President Xi Jinping view the football used in the first World Cup final during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron stands with President Xi Jinping and Manchester City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies] Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron stands with President Xi Jinping and Manchester City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and China's President Xi Jinping view the Jules Rimet trophy during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies] Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and China's President Xi Jinping view the Jules Rimet trophy during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, Britain Oct 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

CHINA’S President Xi Jinping, an avid football fan, called for more exchanges and cooperation with Britain on the beautiful game and other sports.

Accompanied by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Xi was visiting a football academy sponsored by English Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The state-of-the-art training facility includes a 7,000-capacity stadium and 16 football pitches that can cater for more than 450 players.

Xi, a Manchester United fan, and Cameron posed for a “selfie” picture with Sergio Aguero, City’s Argentinian star striker.

They watched a training match and met players who helped build the city’s footballing legacy, including former United captain Gary Neville and ex-City stars Patrick Vieira and Mike Summerbee.

They also met Denis Law, who scored 171 goals for United during the 1960s and 70s, and who famously scored a goal to relegate the club after transferring to City.

Xi and Cameron also viewed an exhibition at Manchester’s National Football Museum in which historic soccer items, including the first World Cup ball, were on display.

A highlight of the visit was the inclusion in the museum’s Hall of Fame of former Manchester City player Sun Jihai, who played 130 times for the club between 2002-2008.

Sun was the first Chinese player to score in the Premier League and was last month named the club’s ambassador to China.

In 2011, Xi outlined his three wishes for football in China — to qualify for another World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup championship.

While China has yet to achieve those goals, much has been done to improve the sport since then.

Xi said China should learn from Britain in many aspects.

“Sports exchange is an important part of people-to-people exchanges. I hope the two sides could strengthen their cooperation in sports, including football, to improve people’s health and China-Britain friendship,” he said.

Xi’s visit to Manchester comes as the UK government tries to promote investment in the post-industrial cities of northern England.

Xi had lunch with around 200 business and civic leaders at Manchester Town Hall, where hundreds of British-based Chinese greeted his arrival, waving Chinese flags.

As part of a raft of partnership deals, Hainan Airlines was expected to announce its first direct flights from Manchester to China.

“China is a key trading partner for the UK and the partnerships being made today will see real investment going into the north,” Cameron said.

A clutch of business contracts, said by Cameron to be worth almost 40 billion pounds (US$61.3 billion), have been announced during Xi’s four-day visit, as well as the launch of the first yuan-denominated bond in London as China seeks to internationalize its currency.

On Thursday, Cameron took Xi to a pub for fish and chips, and a pint of English ale.

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