Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who's better, who's best?

The mother country Old Blighty, England, the home of Three Lions, Jason Statham and most importantly Doctor Who is rumoured to have pulled out of the running to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Their bid process was beset by scandal from the beginning – the affair of bid-chief Lord Triesman, controversy surrounding the awarding of handbags to FIFA representatives and finally, Triesman's magnificent-in-its-folly “The Spanish are bribing the Russians” being leaked to the press.

FIFA regulations require each country or countries to bid for two world cups – 2018 and 2022. Eleven countries began the process and since then both Mexico and Indonesia have withdrawn leaving England, Spain, Russia the USA and Australia as the five favourites to host the world's largest sporting event. It has been reported recently via several news sources – including ESPN Soccernet and – that the English bid has chosen to focus on winning only the 2018 event, rather than 2022, taking opposite tactics to those of Australia, Qatar, South Korea and Japan.

It's looking increasingly likely that Europe will host the 2018 Cup. The two before will have been held in South America and Africa, meaning it's probable one of England, Spain or Russia will host the tournament. It's unlikely that FIFA will sanction two consecutive World Cups in the same continent nor would they tend to go for “repeat business” – Japan and Korea joint-hosted in 2002 – meaning almost by default the USA and Australia become the first choices for 2022.

As an Australian living in North America, I can't wait for decision day on 2nd December this year: whatever decision FIFA council comes up with, I benefit! In reality however, the World Cup is so iconic that it seems a pity to see two countries equally adept at putting on a show to fight it out for the honour and money that comes to the host.

Look at what the 1994 World Cup did for the USA. The majority of the USA's well-performed 2010 World Cup squad would have been in Elementary school in 1994 and football now is making a strong push to be considered the fifth major North American sport. Surely it's time to give that opportunity to Australia, long a producer of quality players and occasionally quality teams, but on a shoestring budget as football is still fighting off basketball, lawn bowls and horse racing for a place in the national sporting consciousness.

At the time of the 2022 World Cup – assuming as most do that 2018 will be awarded to Europe – since 1970, South America will have hosted three Cups, Europe six, North America three and Asia and Africa both only one. It's time for FIFA to embrace Asia again and award the World Cup to the confederation which would benefit from it most.

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