Football Association of Thailand president Worawi Makudi, a member of the powerful FIFA executive committee, is confident that the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be able to host a World Cup finals.
The idea of a joint bid by the 10-member ASEAN to host the 2030 World Cup finals came alive at a foreign ministers' summit in Lombok, Indonesia in January. Malaysia was tasked to come up with a proposal and to submit a status report at the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia next month.
On Sunday, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) backed the idea of a joint bid.
Speaking to MediaCorp over the phone from London yesterday, Worawi said: "This is just an idea now, and we're just collecting feedback. The process of bidding hasn't even started ... but I'm confident that in the next 20 years ASEAN will easily have the capability - in terms of infrastructure - to host the World Cup."
But he cautioned: "I have no doubt that there will be a lot of development in this region in the years ahead ... but it is eventually up to FIFA to award (the hosting rights)."
FIFA's goals of using football as a unifying factor and spreading the game to as many countries as possible will be served by bringing a World Cup here.
But, besides infrastructure, the selection of a team, or teams, to represent the countries here could be extremely complicated. The first and only World Cup to see co-hosts was the 2002 edition held in Japan and Korea, when both countries were granted automatic slots in the competition.
In a statement released on its website yesterday, the AFF said it "welcomes the initiative by the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) to consider hosting the 2030 World Cup in the region."
An ASEAN delegation headed by Malaysia's Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports, Dato' Razali Ibrahim, presented a World Cup bid proposal to the AFF members for the first time on Sunday. The AFF will form a committee to study the proposal.
In the meantime, representatives from Malaysia and the ASEAN Secretariat are in the midst of preparing a status report on the proposal for the forthcoming ASEAN Summit in Jakarta from May 7 to 8.
The next World Cup finals will be held in Brazil in 2014, followed by Russia in 2018 and Qatar four years later. Argentina and Uruguay have expressed an interest in a joint bid for the 2026 finals, and the earliest the tournament could return to Asia will be in 2030.
The benefits of hosting a World Cup are obvious, says Worawi. "Even before the tournament kicks off, along the way as we prepare for the event, we will see a lot of football development in the region ... But for now it is still an idea," he said ..