Fresh from signing the Kyoto Protocol, warding off Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, saying sorry to the stolen generations and doing just about everything his predecessor, John Howard, failed to do in four terms in office, Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has lent his bookish gravitas to an official bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
World Cup trophy at FIFA HQ, Zurich, Switzerland
Rudd has been assiduously building his “sportsman” credentials of late, notably being pictured throwing the arm over in an impromptu cricket match at Parliament House in Canberra and then appearing alongside Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy at last Sunday’s A-League grand final. Getting behind a World Cup bid is by far and away Rudd’s biggest play in sport so far, yet speculation is rife that privately the FFA knows it has no chance of nabbing The Big One in 2018 and is instead using the bid to make a Qiu Qiu Online solid impression for a tilt at 2022.
The fact of the matter is Australia, despite being talked up in some quarters as a possible stand-in host for South Africa 2010 should the Africans fail to get their act together, has a long way to go before it can hope to host an event of such magnitude.
There are very few suitable football stadia currently built and operational, training facilities are thin on the ground (even now for the Socceroos) and, as anyone will tell you who has had the misfortune of braving its CityRail network, public transport in Australia’s biggest metropolis, Sydney, is appallingly bad. Any World Cup bid is going to require a massive injection of capital and a hell of a lot of groundwork. But with Labor governments installed in all Australian states, the prospects for cooperation are good.
Even the AFL, Australia’s biggest sport, has given the World Cup bid its support.
“We’re not sure of what it might mean for us yet, nobody’s spoken to us about that, so we’ll just wait and see if there are any proposed implications for us,” said AFL operations manager Adrian Anderson. Well, Adrian, Soccerphile can start by saying the AFL won’t know what hit it when the World Cup comes to town.
The locals’ knowledge of the event needs some improving, though. In announcing the news, a Sydney radio station declared Melbourne would even “share” the event with its northern cousin, oblivious to the fact that a World Cup is a multi-city event. This is not the Olympics, folks.
The biggest mitigating factor against a 2018 World Cup in Australia, of course, is the fact Europe will have not played host for 12 years, an eternity in football politics and about as realistic a prospect as Harold Holt emerging from his 41-year dip in the waters off Portsea.
The frontrunner at the present time appears to be England, with Portugal/Spain a close second. Sydney 2000 might have been the most successful Olympics ever, but when it comes to truly big football events the FIFA Congress in May and a likely Asian Cup in 2015 will have to suffice till 2022 rolls around.