Australia in talks with Indonesia about a possible challenge to Saudi Arabia for the 2034 World Cup

Wed, Oct 11, 2023
Soccer News (AP)

Australia in talks with Indonesia about a possible challenge to Saudi Arabia for the 2034 World Cup

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Soccer officials in Australia and Indonesia have floated the idea of teaming up in a bid to rival Saudi Arabia for the hosting rights to the men's World Cup in 2034.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported comments Wednesday from Indonesia soccer federation president Erick Thohir about ongoing talks that could also include Malaysia and Singapore in a possible bid.

Indonesia is being linked with a bid despite having the men's Under-20 World Cup taken away by FIFA this year amid political turmoil because the Muslim-majority nation did not want to stage games involving Israel.

Argentina ended up hosting the under-20 tournament at short notice.

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FIFA could have disciplined the Indonesian federation for breaching hosting duties but instead rewarded the country weeks later by naming it as host of the men's Under-17 World Cup. Israel did not qualify for the under-17 edition, which starts next month.

Thohir is an Indonesian government minister who has ties to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Both are members of the International Olympic Committee and Thohir is a former president of Inter Milan, the Italian soccer club whose fans include Infantino.

Any opponent to Saudi Arabia in the 2034 World Cup contest has to express official interest by Oct. 31. FIFA set a deadline of Nov. 30 to file a formal bidding agreement.

Only members of the Asia and Oceania soccer bodies can apply to host the 2034 World Cup because the United States, Canada and Mexico will host the 2026 edition and six FIFA members from Europe, Africa and South America have joined for the 2030 tournament.

Within hours of FIFA opening the 2034 contest a week ago, the Saudi Arabian soccer federation pledged to bid and Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said there was united support for it. Four AFC members now appear to be in talks to contradict that statement.

The Australian soccer federation, which successfully co-hosted the Women's World Cup this year, said last week it is "exploring the possibility of bidding for the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup and/or the FIFA World Cup 2034."

The 32-team club event in 2029 is expected to be played in June-July, a time of year unsuited to the extreme summer heat in Saudi Arabia.

FIFA has said it will decide which months to play the 2034 World Cup after its members confirm the host at a meeting likely to be held late next year.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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