The Chinese Football Association (CFA) moved swiftly Thursday to dampen talk of a 2030 World Cup bid, after China coach Marcello Lippi was quoted as saying plans were being made.
Football fan President Xi Jinping has stated his aim for China to stage the showpiece one day and wants the country, who have only qualified once for the World Cup in 2002, to become a major force in the sport.
Xi met FIFA chief Gianni Infantino in Beijing in June, ramping up speculation that China would bid for either the 2030 or 2034 World Cup.
Lippi, China’s decorated Italian coach, was quoted telling the Chengdu Business Daily: “What I also want to tell you is that the Chinese FA will bid for the 2030 World Cup.”
The comments were widely picked up in other state media, but the CFA was quick to respond, saying in a statement: “We reiterate that the FA did not say which World Cup it will bid for.”
“This kind of information is not officially confirmed and is the media’s interpretation.”
China failed to make next year’s World Cup in Russia, but they are slowly improving under the 69-year-old Lippi, who joined in October 2016, midway through qualifying.
South Korea’s football association (KFA) in June said it was interested in a joint bid with North Korea, Japan and China, an ambitious initiative aimed at easing tensions in the region.
But the KFA admitted it was likely a non-starter, partly because China — who have been throwing money at football development — appeared intent on making their own bid.