South America’s 2030 World Cup bid seeks to rise above political tension

September 22, 2023
Fans of Argentina cheer during a qualifying football match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 against Bolivia at the Hernando Siles stadium in La Paz, Bolivia, on September 12.
Fans of Argentina cheer during a qualifying football match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 against Bolivia at the Hernando Siles stadium in La Paz, Bolivia, on September 12.

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP):

The bid by four South American countries to host football's 2030 World Cup will stay intact until next year regardless of the political tensions in the region, a top team bid official says.

Michael Boys, the executive secretary of the bid of Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that he and his team would approach only politicians who are already in office to discuss plans to host the centennial World Cup in seven years.

The South American proposal will be unveiled to FIFA in October, a process that was delayed so football's governing body could better access data from its latest World Cup in Qatar last year.

The 'Juntos' bid ('Together' in Spanish) is expected to face a serious challenge from one by Spain, Portugal and Morocco, which could also symbolically add war-torn Ukraine to the group. The 2026 World Cup will be hosted in the United States, Mexico and Canada, a decision that indicated FIFA is keen on joint bids.

"This is a 12-year-old project," Boys said. "Administrations of different political colours at every level were in charge, both in national and in city hall levels. Each country has its own internal and external difficulties. Wherever there's a threat, there is also an opportunity to tackle the problems in the region directly."

Argentina, expected to host many matches of the 2030 World Cup if the joint bid is successful, has presidential elections this year that could result in Javier Milei, a far-right politician, becoming president.

Milei, an outspoken admirer of former United States of America president Donald Trump, has repeatedly said he will trim public expenses and step away from leftist leaders worldwide, including Chile's President Gabriel Boric.

Boric himself has faced protests in recent years. Some of the first outdoor marketing for the South American bid will appear during the Pan-American Games in Santiago, which begin on October 20.

Paraguay has also seen street demonstrations challenging the election that elevated conservative Santiago Pena to the presidency in April.

Uruguay, which hosted and won the 1930 final at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo in the inaugural World Cup, is the only country in the South American bid whose political tensions have not risen dramatically.

Boys said the organisers have found 47 potential venues for the World Cup in the four countries. Many of those would be able to host events like the FIFA Congress and other meetings, but no matches.

He said he and his team are working to trim that list so a final technical proposal can be presented. He believes the best bid will definitely win, although the history of World Cup hosting selection shows politics playing a big role.

"(The process) has changed a lot. Before, it was 20 per cent technical and 80 per cent political. Now it is 80 per cent technical and 20 per cent political," Boys said. "That doesn't mean politics doesn't play a role. But we are working heavily in the technical part, (trying to) fulfil all the high demands that FIFA sets to host an event of these characteristics."

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