Tag Archives: FIFA

An Opportunity For A Chinese World Cup in 2026?

The corruption laced debacle that FIFA, world football’s governing body, has descended into may just open a door to China getting its dreamed-for first World Cup. Those who follow FIFA’s Byzantine intrigues tell us that the promises of septuagenarian Sepp Blatter, newly re-elected unopposed to a fourth term as president, to investigate allegations that Qatar bought its award of the 2022 World Cup, may lead to the bidding being reopened. (Qatar strongly denies the allegations.)

Even though FIFA’s member federations as a whole, and no longer just its executive committee, are meant to make the choice of World Cup hosts in future, scuttlebutt doing the rounds of FIFA’s Swiss headquarters holds that the 2022 tournament could be taken from Qatar and switched to the USA, which is now a candidate for the 2026 Cup. That would then open the way for China to host that tournament under FIFA’s informal system of continental rotation. Whether there is any credence to this chatter, and whether the unsuccessful bidders to host  “Asia’s” 2022 World Cup would demand it remained in the region and be staged by one of their number, this Bystander frankly has no idea. But in the looking-glass world of FIFA anything is possible.

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A Chinese Kick For Brazilian Sport

China knows how to build for and stage major international sporting events. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 was a success on both scores in anyone’s book. 2016 Olympics host, Rio de Janeiro, is to benefit from that expertise, as is football’s 2014 FIFA World Cup, also to be held in Brazil. Among the welter of bilateral agreements signed during Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s state visit to China this week is a cooperation and investment agreement for Chinese assistance at the two events.

Though details are scanty, FIFA will be relieved; it has been fretting that Brazil is running behind in developing the stadiums and other infrastructure for its tournament. A little Chinese civil engineering expertise should get the projects back on track. And for China, the goodwill that should generate with FIFA and a little up-close look at World Cup preparations shouldn’t go amiss as its own football association nurtures dreams of bidding for the World Cup in 2026.


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A Helping Bin Hammam Hand For China’s Football?

Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari businessman whose canditure challenging incumbent Sepp Blatter for the presidency of world football’s governing body, FIFA, was announced earlier this week, says he is running on his record of raising  the profile of Asian football, which is the fastest growth market in the world sport. “Asia is the future not only on the field but off the field,” he said during a campaign stop in Seoul this week.

Bin Hammam heads the confederation of Asian national football associations and was instrumental in helping his native emirate land the World Cup in 2022. One country that could use his help is China, which trails in the shadows of East Asia’s footballing powerhouses, South Korea and Japan–it ranks 76th in FIFA’s world rankings; the other two are in the top 30–yet the Chinese Football Association (FA) harbors ambitions to host a World Cup.

It is not just a lack of playing success. The country’s professional league has been wracked by a series of match-fixing, illegal gambling and bribery scandals and the FA has had its top administrators cleared out with some put on trial on corruption charges. Matters have reached the point where its main sponsor, Italian tyre manufacturer, Pirelli  (the company makes truck tyres in Shandong), scrapped its three-year contact worth a reported $6.8 million a year a year early just ahead of the opening of the new season last Friday. The league also doesn’t have a national TV coverage. State broadcaster CCTV is said not to be prepared to show games until after the corruption trial of former football association head Nan Yong.

While it is still far too early to prognosticate, should bin Hammam win the FIFA presidency vote on June 1, the most splendid thing he could do for football in China during his term of office might just be to be the FIFA president to announce that China had won the bidding to host the 2026 World Cup. But Chinese football has to do a lot of internal housecleaning first.

Update: Another sign of Asia’s growing importance to football and, indeed, all Western professional sports: The Wall Street Journal’s Exchange blog draws a straight line between China and the stake taken by U.S. basketball star LeBron James (the American Yao Ming) in Liverpool, the English Premier League football club sponsored by Hong Kong’s Standard Chartered bank and owned by Fenway Sports Group, American owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team and which will be marketing James globally as part of their new deal.

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China: Shrinking Power, In Soccer At Least

China may be a growing power in the world of superpowerdom, but in the global game of football, it is a diminishing one, despite its ambition to host a FIFA World Cup. Its national team ranks a lowly 79th in the world and it now has no representation on FIFA’s executive committee (ExCo), the top table of world football’s governing body.

In that it shares the fate of Japan and South Korea, two nations with legitimate claims to be footballing powers. At elections earlier this month, all three failed to win places among the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) representatives to FIFA’s ExCo. Power within the AFC is tilting towards West Asia, symbolized by Qatar winning hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, the emirate’s Mohamed Bin Hammam being re-elected as the AFC’s president and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussein’s upset defeat of South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon for the FIFA vice-presidency.

There has been some talk within footballing circles of the 46-nation AFC splitting into eastern and western confederations, though AFC vice-president Zhang Jilong, China’s most senior representative at the confederation and who was one of the unsuccessful candidates for FIFA’s ExCo, plays down to possibility in an interview with World Football Insider. FIFA would not necessarily look favorably on an upstart break-up of the AFC, and Chinese football still has plenty to do in cleaning up its own scandal-plagued game before a World Cup bid is feasible.


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When Will China Get A FIFA World Cup?

Where does FIFA’s award of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 leave China’s possible aspirations to host the 2026 tournament? We noted in July that the Chinese Football Association was considering the feasibility of a bid for 2026, despite its current tribulations and China’s relatively lowly standing in the football world. The CFA’s head, Wei Di, has now repeated that he favors China giving it a go.

In one sense both awards should give the Wei some encouragement. FIFA set great store in hosting its World Cups in countries where the tournament will give a boost to the game. Russia is a footballing power of long standing, but its football infrastructure is woefully antiquated and will need a thorough overhaul. Qatar, on the other hand, ranks even lower than China as a footballing nation, but bears the standard for the Middle East, a region that hitherto has not hosted the tournament.

FIFA’s informal continental rotation meant the 2022 tournament was always going to be awarded to an Asian nation. That is went to West Asia, and not to South Korea, Australia or Japan, the three other contenders, may leave the door open for an Asia-Pacific nation in 2026. Two East Asian World Cups in succession would have been out of the question.

Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics with spectacular success, so FIFA should have little doubt that China can pull off staging its flagship event. The question will be is 2026 the right moment to endorse a world power that is not as yet a footballing one. While it is way to early to say, FIFA may first prefer to give a boost to the game in another Asia-Pacific nation, the U.S., and have China bide its time until 2030.



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