London: China, hosting next year’s Olympic Games, is considering a bid to stage the soccer World Cup in 2018, a move that may pit it against countries such as England, Australia and the US, Fifa president Sepp Blattersaid.
China hosted the inaugural women’s version of soccer’s showpiece in 1991 and is set to put on this year’s event in September. The national team’s only appearance in the men’s tournament was in 2002, when Japan and South Korea staged the event for the first time in Asia.
“You can already see what they did with the women’s World Cup, they turned it into a great show,” Blatter said. A call to China’s general administration of sport wasn’t returned.
Fifa, soccer’s world governing body, will decide in November which confederation will stage the 2018 tournament. After Germany was awarded last year’s edition, Blatter said the quadrennial event would be rotated around the confederations. The 2010 World Cup is set for South Africa, with South America’s Brazil or Colombia likely to stage the 2014 edition.
Post-2014 remains to be decided. If each confederation is allowed a turn, the tournament would probably return in 2018 to north and central America, which won’t have staged it since the US did so in 1994, Blatter said.
It may be, however, that the US is viewed as part of the Americas, in which case the World Cup may pass to Asia, which would include Australia after it left Oceania to join that confederation, Blatter said. Fifa’s 24-member executive committee, of whom eight are European, may also decide to scrap rotation and allow any capable country to play host, Blatter said.
“My own personal thinking is that we should consider the rotation as a privilege of all confederations as long as the conditions are guaranteed,” said Blatter, who will stand for re-election later this year. “On strict procedure, that’s north and central America—probably Mexico, the US or Canada.”
The UK government this month said it would back an England bid after a feasibility study found the country has the infrastructure and public support needed to stage the most-watched event in sports.
Blatter met UK chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, sports minister Richard Caborn and Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson to discuss the possibility of England staging a competition it won on home soil in 1966.
“There is absolute enthusiasm in the political authorities in England to host the World Cup,” Blatter said. “More so than in the FA, because the FA knows that it’s not so easy.”
Gianluca Vialli, who played in two World Cups for Italy, said it would be good if “football is coming home” to England, where he spent almost six years as a player and manager.
“There is a fantastic infrastructure, there’d be a great atmosphere, financially they’re secure and it is where football was invented,” Vialli said.
Even if the tournament were to return to Europe, Blatter pointed out that England wasn’t guaranteed the competition.
“What about Russia?” he said. “Europe doesn’t stop with the European Union.”
Fifa requires between eight and 12 venues with a capacity of at least 40,000 people, among other criteria. The opening match, semifinals and final must take place in an arena that can hold a minimum of 60,000.
English teams have invested about £2 billion (Rs17,200 crore) in all-seat stadiums in the past 15 years, according to accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche LLP, and the new national stadium at Wembley, northwest London, is also almost completed.
Italian teams are currently updating arenas after violence resulted in the death of a policeman at Catania on 2 February. “England is a great example of how comfort and security in stadiums can be ensured,” said Blatter, adding the England would be ready to stage the World Cup tomorrow. “This is a huge point for England should the competition come back to Europe.”
Of 18 World Cups since 1930, 10 have been in Europe and six in Latin America, with the US and Asia each staging the event once.
Africa will host the tournament for the first time in 2010. Blatter dismissed news reports that South Africa wouldn’t be ready to stage the event, adding that the greater number of African teams, due to the host nation qualifying as of right, would increase the chances of a first champion from the continent.