|Xi Jinping, then vice-president, visits the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland in 2012. Xi is a sports fan and particularly likes soccer. (Xinhua Photo)|
Though China has not confirmed that he will attend, the possibility that President Xi Jinping will make an appearance at the World Cup final would likely boost the game's popularity in his country – and also help create an appealing image that would increase his own popularity with the public.
Valdemar Carneiro Leao, the Brazilian ambassador to China, said during a recent interview that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had sent an invitation to President Xi to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup final in Brazil on July 13, before taking part in the 2014 BRICS summit in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza.
"2014 marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Brazil and China. President Xi's stay in Brazil this year will be a wonderful coincidence," the ambassador told the Chinese news website ifeng.com.
The Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo also said that Brazil's president had invited the heads of the states that will participate in the BRICS summit to watch the final.
And a report on people.cn on Tuesday quoted Glaudio Garon, minister counselor of the Brazilian embassy in Beijing, as saying that the Brazilian government had officially invited Xi.
However, Garon told China Daily on Tuesday afternoon that he had not been interviewed by any media (in China) and all the information should be confirmed by the Chinese government.
"We don't want to make any comments on that," Garon said when asked to confirm if Brazil had sent the invitation.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also refused to comment at a regular media briefing on Tuesday on the possibility that Xi would attend the World Cup final.
Despite the uncertainty, Xi's connection with the most popular sporting event in the world has increased the public's enthusiasm about the upcoming World Cup, which kicks off on June 12 – and it has also led to some excitement concerning his interest in the game.
"As the most famous soccer fan in China, President Xi has been too busy taking care of state affairs to enjoy the game. He should go to watch the final and relax a little bit. He deserves it," a microblogger who uses the alias honeyXuanzexingshiyi wrote on Sina Weibo, China's largest micro blog platform, on Tuesday.
Li Shengxin , a sports public relations expert at Beijing Sport University, said Xi's association with soccer and public comments on the sport do more than any PR campaigns could hope to achieve to create an approachable image.
"Showing personal interest in sports, especially on big stages such as world diplomacy, is a great way to project a vibrant and healthy leader's image," Li said.
Xi has not hidden his interest in soccer, as he has on many occasions expressed his high expectations for the Chinese national team and has also encouraged young players.
During his state visit to Germany in March, Xi told a group of Chinese junior players who were training in Berlin that he hopes China's youth will produce outstanding international stars in the future.
Additionally, despite the relatively high price, a total of 1,500 ticket-and-travel packages have reportedly been sold in China this year, twice the number sold for the previous World Cup final in South Africa in 2010, according to Shankai Sports International, the official World Cup ticket agency in China.