Asean aims to host World Cup in 15 years: Thai foreign minister

A supporter of Thailand cheers during the preliminary round match between Thailand and Chile at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 in France on June 20, 2019.
A supporter of Thailand cheers during the preliminary round match between Thailand and Chile at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 in France on June 20, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK • South-east Asian nations could launch a joint bid to host the 2034 World Cup, Thailand's foreign minister has said, a bold play to bring the biggest sporting show on earth to a football-mad region for the first time.

The only Asian hosts of the World Cup so far have been Japan and South Korea, in 2002.

China is widely seen as the next Asian front runner to hold the tournament, with its massive sporting market, wealth and infrastructure to match.

But Asean, the 10-country bloc meeting in Bangkok this weekend, is keen to steal a march on the regional superpower.

"Government sectors think this can happen... 15 years from now," Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters after talks with his counterparts yesterday.

A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman said that "the idea will be proposed to the leaders" of Asean before the end of the summit today.

Since the inaugural World Cup in 1930, 17 countries have hosted the event, many of them in Europe and South America, where millions of football-mad fans have descended to support their home countries' teams.

World governing body Fifa usually selects the country years in advance, and the 2026 event will go to the North American continent, with the United States, Canada and Mexico as joint hosts.

But the years-long vetting process has been fraught with controversies in the past as allegations of bribery and kickbacks have plagued Fifa over the awarding of the host position to Russia last year and Qatar in 2022.

South-east Asia is home to tens of millions of passionate fans, but it lacks high-level national teams as well as the facilities to put on the massive event.

It is unclear which of the 10 members would host the games or how Fifa would allocate the automatic qualification normally given to tournament hosts.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 23, 2019, with the headline 'Asean aims to host World Cup in 15 years: Thai foreign minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe