Xi Story: Sports fan who looks beyond the game

(Xinhua) 10:06, September 29, 2021

Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) visits young Chinese footballers from Zhidan county in China's northwestern province of Shaanxi, who are being trained by their German coaches in Berlin, Germany, March 29, 2014. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)

BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping is an avid sports fan. He likes swimming, hiking, and particularly football. But how does this interest in sports impact his work?

"Unpredictability is what makes a sports match, especially a football match, exciting," he once told foreign reporters.

There is one aspect, however, that is constant -- the players and how they work together as a team.

In 1988, when Xi was Party secretary to Ningde, a then impoverished prefecture in China's eastern province of Fujian, he gave a speech about how the local economy could be held back by "lone wolves" in government departments unable, or unwilling, to work together.

"Let's compare it to a football match. In high-level football competition today, focusing only on individual skills is no longer the prevailing trend. Scoring relies mainly on the organic cooperation of the players, and coordination is now an important aspect of tactical awareness on the football field," he said. "Football fans often criticize some players for dribbling too much because they dislike it when players show off their own skills, which damages team play and wastes scoring opportunities."

Xi called on local authorities to join in a "chorus," urging different government departments to work together to develop the local economy. This approach would revolutionize how departments functioned and cooperated.

This story shed light on the inspiration Xi drew from sports when he was a young official. Today, sports are no less important for Xi, the country's top leader.

From talking with Chinese boxers to watching ice skaters training, a clear theme emerges.

"Sport is an important means for improving people's health, meeting people's aspirations for a better life and facilitating well-rounded human development. It is also an important driver for economic and social development and an important platform for demonstrating a country's cultural soft power," Xi said.

The president's focus on sports this month was highlighted by his attendance at China's 14th National Games. Xi personally announced the opening of the games. As this multi-sport event, billed as China's "mini Olympics," came to a close this week, all eyes are turning to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. 

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Liang Jun)


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