South Americans launch 2023 bid with an emotional call for a return to the World Cup’s roots

By Samindra Kunti

August 3 – It took about five years to put together, but on Tuesday South America finally launched their bid to stage the 2030 World Cup with an unprecedented coalition of Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile vying to stage a celebratory, centenary global finals in the region.

In 1930, Uruguay was the first country to host the World Cup. Just 13 nations participated and the hosts prevailed in the final against neighbours Argentina. A hundred years later, Uruguay wants to organise the competition again together with other South American nations, playing up the sentiment of being the inaugural hosts.

“We are in this iconic place where history began,” said Conmebol president Alejandro Dominguez in a news conference at the Centenario stadium in Montevideo, the venue of the first World Cup final. “This is not the project of a government but the dream of a whole continent.”

The idea for a South American bid for the 2030 World Cup was first mooted by Uruguay and Argentina in 2017 and later both Chile and Paraguay joined the prospective bid. The bid presented itself as a romantic choice.

The first World Cup was “thought up, analyzed and put into practice here in Uruguay almost 100 years ago,” said the president of the Uruguayan football association (AUF) Ignacio Alonso. “It became the greatest sporting festival in the world. We will work wholeheartedly to show FIFA and all our colleagues that they owe a moral debt to those founders of 1930.”

“FIFA has to return the origin to where football began,” added Uruguay’s Sports Secretary Sebastián Bauzá.

But Ignacio, a FIFA Council member, is realistic enough to understand that emotions alone will not win South America the hosting rights. “We cannot rely only on the sentimental, we have to play our part and be ready.”

In 2014, Brazil was the last South American country to host the World Cup when ten stadiums hosted 64 matches in a 32-team finals. In 2026, however, the tournament format will change with 48 participating nations, dramatically increasing the onus on the host nations. The United States, Mexico and Canada will host the 2026 tournament.

“We have to have a sustainable World Cup that leaves a legacy for the four countries,” said Bauza.

The South Americans will face competition from a joint bid by Spain and Portugal. The Spanish hosted the World Cup in 1982 and Portugal staged Euro 2004. Last February, the United Kingdom and Ireland withdrew plans for a joint bid.

The bidding field thus far might well prove a test for the ties between UEFA and Conmebol which became closer after FIFA’s proposal for a biennial World Cup.

With Russia staging the last World Cup in Europe in 2018 and Asia and North America hosting the next two editions of the tournament, UEFA will feel strongly about bringing the world’s leading tournament back to the Old Continent.

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