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The Asian threat
by Paul Kennedy, February 19th, 2010 1:46AM
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TAGS:  soccer business, world cup 2022


[FIFA] By almost any standard, the United States should be a cinch to land one of the World Cups up for bid: 2018 or 2022. It has everything: stadiums, infrastructure, organization and a home market of soccer-crazy fans. The United States could be awarded the World Cup tomorrow and put on the most spectacular World Cup in history next week. We exaggerate. But World Cup bids aren't decided on paper, and the FIFA politics that may help determine who gets the 2018 and 2022 World Cups are getting increasingly complicated.

After eight years of relative peace, FIFA President Sepp Blatter appears to be facing a challenge. Asian confederation president Mohammed Bin Hammam announced this week in Seoul that "the time has come" for an Asian to run for president.

Separate 2018/2022 bids from Australia, Qatar and South Korea -- all Asia members -- are believed to be the USA's biggest challengers for one of the two World Cups -- one of the European bidders will get the other -- and they could get a boost if Bin Hammam's bid -- or that of another Asian, perhaps Korean Chung Mong Joon -- to challenge the 74-year-old Blatter, who has already served three terms, takes off in the coming months.

The next presidential elections will take place at the 2011 FIFA Congress six months after the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts are selected.

Unlike the FIFA presidency, which is decided by a vote of all member federations, the World Cup hosts are picked by the 24-man executive committee.

Blatter is undaunted by the threat.

"It seems obvious that there will be a candidate from Asia," he said Thursday, "but I have not changed my mind. I slept well despite the news from Seoul. I am still here and I hope I will still be here in 2011. I have not finished my mission and if the Congress decides [to back me], then I will still be here."

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