China talks of bid for World Cup in 2026

Jul 23, 2010 - 2:49 PM By MICHAEL CASEY AP Sports Writer

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates(AP) -- China's Football Association has signaled it may bid for the World Cup in 2026, raising speculation that such a move could undermine the hopes of Japan, South Korea, Qatar and even Australia, which are in the running to host the 2022 tournament.

The winning bids for 2018 and 2022 will be announced Dec. 2, with a European country expected to be chosen for the earlier year. The emergence of China as a contender for 2026 could work in favor of the U.S. bid for 2022.

"If China throws its hat in for 2026, it blows everything wide open for 2022 because in many ways China is arguably the last great footballing frontier," said Simon Chadwick, a sports marketing expert at Coventry University in England.

"From the Chinese government's perspective, bidding for the World Cup is an important thing," he said. "From FIFA's perspective, there is considerable appeal in China bidding for 2026 because I think it's a very important marketplace. I would argue China is a much more important marketplace than the (U.S.) was in 1994."

CFA head Wei Di first hinted at a bid last week after returning from the World Cup in South Africa, telling the country's leading sports newspaper, Titan Sports, that China has the venues and the rail network needed to host a big event - something he communicated to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

"Mr. Blatter told me China is becoming more and more influential and it's an irresistible trend that China will finally host a World Cup," Wei said.

He also came out in favor of the United States winning the 2022 bid and took aim at Qatar over fears that an Asian winner would jeopardize China's chances in 2026.

FIFA rules dictate that no continent can host the World Cup twice in a row.

The talk of China bidding for 2026 World Cup brought a less than supportive response from Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam, a native Qatari.

Bin Hammam said the AFC is supporting the four Asian bidders for the 2022 tournament and that he "didn't want to jeopardize their chances."

Reaction from the four bidders to the Chinese threat has been mostly mixed, with only Japan acknowledging that a Chinese bid poses challenges. Qatar and Australian football officials declined to comment.

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