China’s unrealistic World Cup dream
Chinese President Xi Jinping can do many things, but bringing a World Cup to China won’t be one of them. First thoughts are the moves being made do look like sensible, long-term overhauls, rather than the short-term, quick fixes that government officials have previously initiated solely to gain attention and/or promotion, like for David Beckham.
But despite the recent (mini-)revival seen at the Asian Cup, Chinese soccer has been seriously bad for a long, long time, and there’s a limit to how much one man can do. The Wall Street Journal recently tried to connect China’s footballing rebuild and Wanda’s takeover of sports marketing firm Infront – run, of course, by the nephew of FIFA dictator Sepp Blatter – into a Chinese World Cup bid.
Despite the fact that it links to an article which argues that China is ready to host the World Cup, I think it misses the mark, not least because the WSJ appears not to realize that China cannot bid for a World Cup for the next two successive tournaments after it has been held in its region, the AFC (i.e. 2026 and 2030, following Qatar 2022).
As I argue in this week’s Sports Talk column, China’s chances of achieving Xi’s three goals of qualifying for, hosting and winning a World Cup are not looking good, and the Infront connection just seems too much of a stretch:
“The earliest China could conceivably bid for the World Cup under FIFA’s bidding rules would be the 2034 edition, by which point Blatter – and his influence – would be long gone. China’s best chance of achieving any of Xi’s three goals may be to wait until the tournament expands from 32 to 40 teams – whenever that might be – giving Asian teams an easier route to the finals.”