A Chinese Cat Amongst the Pigeons


It seems a long way away but we will know within three to five years who will host the centenary World Cup tournament.


FIFA first have the headache of Qatar 2022, in the Middle East and in the middle of the football calendar, to overcome.

Then comes the biggest shebang yet, as three countries - Canada, Mexico and the United States will host 48 finalists in 2026.

The next tournament should be back in one of the World Cup's traditional heartlands, Europe or South America, with England the probable host from UEFA and Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile in the frame from CONMEBOL.

Uruguay can claim to be honouring the centenary of the 1930 World Cup they hosted and won, although that line did not work for the 1996 Olympics and Athens, who had to wait until 2004.

However, the prospect of a bid from China in 2030 has suddenly loomed into view. Already hosts for the 24-team Asian Cup in 2023, China is the biggest missing piece in the jigsaw of World Cup hosting history, a list missing India and Australia as well.

The Chinese first expressed an interest in World Cup hosting back in 2011 but as it stands, FIFA rules mean they cannot hold the tournament before 2034, when two World Cups will have passed since the Asian Football Confederation's hosting in 2022.

However, money talks more than anything in football and the temptation to let China host sooner rather than later will be hard to ignore. There is no doubt the Chinese are capable of building the required stadia and infrastructure and with a billion potential customers for the Beautiful Game, any bid will be hard to ignore.

Already Chinese group Wanda, whose name adorns Atletico Madrid's new stadium, the host of this year's Champions League final, is one of FIFA's seven major sponsors, alongside Visa, Adidas, Hyundai-Kia, Qatar Airways, Coca-Cola and Gazprom.

Marcello Lippi, recently reappointed Chinese national team coach, told journalists last winter that his adopted country was gunning for 2030 and FIFA President Gianni Infantino last week confirmed the governing body was open to a rule change - "The more the merrier" he told reporters.

FIFA will have to change their existing bidding rules at their Council conference in October this year - which tellingly takes place in Shanghai.

A combined North African proposal from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria for 2030 has already been announced, as well as a Balkan bid featuring Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece.

England's bid is set to be a British one, involving between two and four of the other British Isles nations and Spain & Portugal, having failed to land 2018, may try again too.

So it looks set to be an almighty global struggle to host 2030, but a very, very big fish could be about to join the race.

With Shanghai in the frame for the 2032 Olympic Games, it could be a busy few years for international sport in China but 2030 is also a symbolic date.

That year it is expected that China will become the world's most popular tourist destination and that the nation's economy will finally overtake the USA's, confirming China as the richest land on earth.

What better way to confirm you are top dog on the planet than by hosting the planet's biggest show?

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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