During his state visit to the UK next week, Xi will reportedly be wearing blue rather than red as he visits the home of Manchester City to indulge his well-known passion for football.
According to the Financial Times, Xi will visit the Etihad stadium, home of Manchester City, during a trip to the north of England to hear a speech by Chancellor George Osborne.
While Manchester United is undoubtedly better known throughout China, in no small part to the stampede inducing fame and prestige of former midfielder David Beckham, a confluence of other factors appear to have influenced Xi’s decision.
China is eager to build on good relations with Sheikh Mansour, the owner of Manchester City, and his Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Then there’s the fact that Sun Jihai, one of China’s most prestigious footballers, played for the club between 2002 to 2008. And perhaps Xi just doesn’t want to associate himself with a team nicknamed “The Red Devils.”
British officials are hoping to use football as a means to win over their Chinese counterparts and help part them from their money while on UK soil. A few weeks ago, George Osborne announced that the UK would be giving over $4.5 million to help aid the development of football in Xinjiang.
The plan might just work, especially as Xi is reportedly football crazy. When explaining his personal ambitions for China in 2011, he joked that he had three items on his list: to qualify for the World Cup, to host the World Cup and to win the World Cup.
But despite the backing of the Chinese President and a master plan to improve the country’s performance at the sport, China languishes at 97th place in the Fifa world rankings, with the national team a source of shame and disappointment for many.