ASEAN eyes joint-bid for 2030 World Cup

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - It could be a dream come true for millions of football fans in the region as the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) said it is planning to make a joint bid to host the World Cup 2030 football tournament, media reports said Monday.

The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ASEAN Secretary General said the bloc’s foreign ministers had agreed to file a joint bid to host the tournament, held every four years by FIFA. The decision was proposed at the 3-day meeting in Lombok, Indonesia among ASEAN foreign ministers.

“This is a good way to boost our unity, Malaysia had been tasked to come up with a detailed proposal by the 10 foreign ministers.” Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said.

Indonesia were briefly involved in the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup finals before withdrawing their candidature in March last year.

Although any decisions for the 2030 finals will not be made by FIFA for more than a decade, the ASEAN nations are the second party to show an interest, following an announcement last year that Argentina and Uruguay could also consider a joint bid.

FIFA’s shock decision to hand Qatar hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup finals suggests football’s world governing body no longer relies solely on “old” requirements, such as a proven international track record on the field as necessary, to come up with a successful bid. None of the 10 nations in ASEAN have ever qualified for a World Cup finals.

Mr Jon Collins, managing director of Centurion Football, feels the cultural diversity and population of 600 million people spread across ASEAN will also be a big attraction for FIFA. Mr Collins’ company is involved in bringing big-name European teams to play in Asia.

“ASEAN is a lot more tourist-friendly, unlike Qatar, which needed to do a lot more to win their bid, ASEAN has a lot going for it and the potential to promote the game to more than half a billion people is a big opportunity for FIFA,” he added.

Japan and South Korea successfully joint-hosted the World Cup in 2002.

Problem Nations

Brunei and Myanmar are two problem nations shall the region considers a joint bid with the name ASEAN. Myanmar is currently under Western economic sanction for its human rights violations and treatment of political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, and this is a highly detrimental point in the bidding process. The Brunei government angered FIFA by unilaterally dissolving its football association and replaced it with a government-appointed group. FIFA has requested Brunei to reverse such political intervention, which was ignored as the Brunei government feels FIFA doesn’t have right to challenge its power in the country. Brunei has been suspended by FIFA at the moment, with its team banned from playing in Singapore, Thailand and South Korean friendly last year. FIFA has threatened expulsion of Brunei should the case is not resolved.