Fifa World Cup 2034: S'pore, Asean neighbours should launch joint bid

Based on the infrastructural requirements of the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil, I am confident that South-east Asia's two most developed economies - Malaysia and Singapore - can jointly mount and host a successful tournament in 2034 (Singapore will explore joint World Cup bid; July 7).

There are enough 40,000-capacity stadiums between the two neighbours to meet Fifa's qualifying standards. Johor is reportedly planning a new one as well.

If need be, the floating platform at Marina Bay can be upsized and refurbished to host what may be the first World Cup game in such a venue.

With the Singapore -Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail up and running by 2034, in addition to the expansion of Malaysia's domestic train network, transport and logistics should be a breeze.

However, as the number of teams participating in the 2034 Fifa World Cup will increase to 48 from the current 32, Indonesia's initiative to spearhead a joint Asean bid is timely. In fact, Thailand should be roped in as well.

A World Cup hosted by four out of the five founding Asean member nations would be most meaningful for the organisation.

All are football-crazy nations, with solid tourism facilities to boot.

But given the more complex transport and logistical challenges and the costs, the organisers should seek to deliver a budget-friendlier tournament by centring it on those countries with ready and compact infrastructure to facilitate movement for the teams and their fans.

Malaysia and Singapore stand out in this regard, with Greater Jakarta and Greater Bangkok adding to the mix, ensuring that travel time between facilities will not be more than three hours by air, rail and road.

The luck of the draw should be used to decide which of these countries will host the prestigious opening and final matches, as well as the third or fourth play-off.

Team-wise, Asean should be represented by its top national teams according to the outcomes of the SEA Games and Asean Football Championship, as opposed to the traditional route of automatic entry for the hosts.

This will ensure that only the best represent the region, as well as foster regional inclusivity and solidarity based on meritocracy.

Currently, not a single national team from South-east Asia ranks in the Fifa top 100.

We have a lot of catching up to do.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Fifa World Cup 2034: S'pore, Asean neighbours should launch joint bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe