Xi says 'Not So Sure' of Chinese Football Team's Abilities

China's President Xi Jinping speaks at the "Senior Chinese Leader Event" held by the National Committee on US-China Relations and the US-China Business Council on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Week in San Francisco, California, on November 15, 2023. Photo by CARLOS BARRIA / POOL / AFP

San Francisco, United States -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he is "not so sure" of the abilities of the national men's football team, despite their recent victory over Thailand.

Xi made the rare off-the-cuff remark in an informal conversation with Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, according to a video posted Saturday by a Thai government account on X, formerly Twitter.

After evidently hearing for the first time that China had defeated Thailand 2-1 in a recent match, Xi said: "I think there was a lot of luck involved."

"Because now, about our national team -- I'm not so sure about their level," Xi said ahead of a meeting of APEC leaders in San Francisco.

"There are ups and downs," he added.

Xi has previously described himself as a football fan and said he dreams of China hosting and winning a World Cup one day.

But ambitions of developing the men's team into an international powerhouse have not come to fruition.

In September, hosts China fell 0-1 to Syria in a friendly loss mocked by frustrated fans and derided by state media as "another embarrassing defeat".

Chinese football has been in the grip of a major anti-corruption campaign that has seen numerous leading figures investigated or charged, including former national coach Li Tie.

The men's national team face a critical few months with the start of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, and the Asian Cup in January-February in Qatar.

The long road to the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico began in earnest in Asia on Thursday with 36 teams in action.

© Agence France-Presse

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