October 4 – In a move that could be interpreted in some circles as presenting a local regional challenge to China’s hopes of staging the 2034 World Cup – always a more likely scenario than 2030 – FIFA on Saturday signed a memorandum of understanding with the 12-strong Association of South East Asian Nations to use football to help boost social development in the region.
The deal represents a symbolic gesture aiming at boosting investment, infrastructure and education in a key region of the Asian Football Confederation that is home to more than 640 million people.
“People in your country, businesses in your country, invest 10 times more in European football than football in ASEAN. We need of course to invest in ASEAN,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said at the deal’s signing ceremony.
ASEAN leaders a few weeks ago agreed to set up a working group to look into the possibility of a joint bid by five of its members for the 2034 Fifa World Cup: Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Whilst laudable on paper, it seems unlikely if China, as expected, puts its name forward.
“Through this MOU, we look forward to a stronger football and sporting community in the region that builds on unique regional identity and sense of community,” said ASEAN’s secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi.
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