By sportswriter Wang Zijiang
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Chinese writer and Nobel laureate Mo Yan said here on Sunday that he supports China to host a FIFA World Cup because it can help improve the level of football in the world's most populous country.
"It is a good thing to host a World Cup even though it seems difficult at the moment," Mo told Xinhua. "But if China is given a chance to host a World Cup, it can really help boost the popularity of the sport and improve the level of Chinese football."
The 59-year-old Mo, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012, is visiting Brazil and will watch the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina.
Mo Yan, a pseudonym for Guan Moye, grew up in a farmers' family in Gaomi of Shandong Province in eastern China . He said like most of Chinese people at that time, he liked table tennis since primary school. He had never watched or played any football until late 1980s when he studied in the Beijing Normal University.
He recalled, "I had a classmate named Hong Feng, now also a very well-known writer. He played football everyday. Sometimes, he asked all the classmates to join him. We just split into two teams. Since I had never played before, he put me as a goal keeper.
"Actually, we didnot have a goal. It was just two posts of a basketball stand."
But during the years after that when he became more and more famous, when he said he was a "half football fan", nobody believed him.
"Everybody thought that I was joking," he said. "30 years ago, people thought that football was a very distant thing from China. I even didn't know China had a national team."
He said that he finally fell in love with the sport.
"It's an attractive sport," he said. "It's very physical and shows the strength of the athletes. But what attracts me most is the footballers' dribbling skills, the team work and their fighting spirit."
He said he was also surprised at Brazil's 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semifinals. "They missed two important players (Neymar and Thiago Silva) in the match, I had expected they might not win, but I never thought they would lose by such a big margin."
"But this is football. It is full of surprises all the time and that's the beauty of the sport and that's why so many people love it."