Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the headquarters of the Manchester City Football Club as he concluded his U.K. state visit.

Xi and British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the City Football Academy which is also a youth development and team training site in central Manchester. The leaders met team members Toni Duggan and Sergio Aguero and posed for selfies.

During the visit, former City player and Chinese international, Sun Jihai was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame. Jihai is City’s ambassador to China.  

 

BRITAIN-CHINA-DIPLOMACY
British Prime Minister David Cameron (C), Chinese President Xi Jinping (R), Manchester City’s Head of the Elite Development Squad Patrick Vieira (2R), Manchester City’s Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero (L), listen to Manchester City’s Toni Duggan (2L), during a visit to the City Football Academy in Manchester, north west England, on October 23, 2015. After three days of banquets, processions and trade talks, Xi on the final day of his State visit, will meet former players of both Manchester City and cross-city rivals Manchester United, whose current teams will play each other on Sunday. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JOE GIDDENS

Xi is heavily promoting football in China.  The Ministry of Education has taken the lead in organizing the games based on a national strategy for school soccer. Although soccer hasn’t been a forte for China, there has been a nationwide campaign to boost the sport, which is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers.

China has launched a reform plan intended to enhance players’ skills and the national team’s performance. The plan also aims to expose about 2.2 million children in 5,000 primary and secondary schools to three hours of soccer a week.

Xi was greeted by hundreds of enthusiastic and well-organized well-wishers in the northwest England city of Manchester.

The two countries signed more than 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in trade agreements during the trip, as Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would be China’s “partner of choice” in the West.

Before flying home Friday Xi had lunch with business people and civic leaders and visited the soccer academy in Manchester.

Britain is seeking Chinese investment in Manchester, which it hopes will become an economic and technological “northern powerhouse” to offset London’s dominance.

Story from The Associated Press and CCTV.

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