BANGKOK • South-east Asian countries will jointly bid to host the World Cup in 2034, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday, after meetings among the region's leaders in Bangkok.
Asia has held the quadrennial showpiece of international football only once, when Japan and South Korea were joint hosts in 2002, and Qatar will bring it back to the continent in 2022.
"The leaders have support of the region to host the Fifa World Cup in 2034, if possible," Mr Prayut said at a concluding news conference after a summit of the 10-member grouping. "I would like to invite the people of Asean to support the soccer associations in their countries in order to realise this dream," he said.
The region is home to more than 640 million people, many of whom follow football avidly even if their national teams are relative minnows, with none having ever qualified for the World Cup Finals.
The idea of Asean hosting the World Cup was first mooted at the start of the decade, and advocates say the move could help raise the region's profile and integration.
However, experts said more needs to be done to iron out details of how the 10 countries should proceed with the bid, including the possibility of fielding a team consisting of the best players from the region.
"Hosting the World Cup would raise Asean's global standing and be the first time a regional intergovernmental bloc would host a sporting event of such significance," said Mr Fuadi Pitsuwan, a public policy scholar at Chiang Mai University and a long-term advocate of the initiative.