Asia’s football body has thrown its weight behind an eventual World Cup bid by China and insisted the teeming wider region deserves greater representation at the tournament.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Alex Soosay told AFP that “China has everything a World Cup should offer.
“They have the facilities, they have the infrastructure, they have the economy. So I don’t think you can deny China,” he said in an interview in Bahrain.
“I believe they have the potential. Asia’s always backed China. Hopefully with the prospect of hosting a World Cup it will further propel Chinese football.”
Since a major corruption purge, Chinese football has hit new heights, with its first AFC Champions League win in 2013 and a surge by the national team.
President Xi Jinping has also made football a priority with a masterplan released in January which envisages hosting and ultimately winning the World Cup.
A well-placed source told AFP at this week’s AFC congress in Manama that senior Chinese officials had already discussed a joint bid for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.
An extra World Cup spot for Asia, which currently has four slots and access to an inter-continental play-off, could make a big difference to China and the rest of the region.
“Definitely we deserve (another) half-slot. We have four-and-a-half now,” Soosay said. “We deserve the half.”
Asia’s teams finished winless at last year’s World Cup, but co-hosts South Korea reached the 2002 semi-finals and South Africa 2014 was also encouraging for the region.
Qualifying is under way for Russia 2018 but many Asian countries have set their sights on 2022, when Qatar will host the region’s second World Cup.
“We don’t want Asian teams to be embarrassed in 2022,” said Soosay, praising last month’s appointment of ex-Scotland boss Andy Roxburgh as AFC technical director.
“Asia’s dream is to win the World Cup. So we brought Andy to win the World Cup,” he said.
“And we know, Andy did that (sic) in Europe and Andy is a capable man of doing that in Asia.
“Not putting a lot of pressure on Andy, but we know Andy’s experience, Andy’s expertise.”
Roxburgh himself responded with far less bravado earlier this week after he was asked when an Asian team would win football‘s biggest prize.
“Good question!” laughed the Scot, shaking his head. – Agence France-Presse