Peter Velappan, the former secretary general of the Asian Football Confederation, has called on four Southeast Asian nations to join forces in a bid for the 2034 edition of the Fifa World Cup.
The 82-year-old has proposed that he lead a potential bid comprising Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia for what would be a 48-team World Cup.
Velappan, who served as AFC secretary general from 1978 to 2007, has not formally approached the relevant governing bodies but he believes hosting the tournament would help unite the region.
“Football today, especially the World Cup, is much more than a game,” Velappan said, according to Goal.com. “It is a unifying force. You see the fans at the stadium wearing different colours but hugging each other. We don't see fan violence anymore. It's all very peaceful and cordial.
“Let the politicians fight their battles, but on our side, we have to unite the people using football and bring joy to them. That is what football can do.”
On the financial benefits of hosting the World Cup, he added: “Today, the television rights (to broadcast the World Cup) contribute 70 per cent of the tournament's income. It's a huge sum of money. Each team receives $8m (€6.9m) for reaching the finals.
“Everybody will benefit financially; currently the association receives $48m, the players get $1m each, new facilities will be built.”
The World Cup has been staged in Asia once before, when Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002. This year’s tournament is currently ongoing in Russia, with the 2022 event scheduled for Qatar. Last week, the joint proposal from the United States, Canada and Mexico was awarded hosting rights for the 2026 tournament.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has previously said that co-hosting models would be favourable for 48-team tournaments, with the 2026 World Cup set to be the first edition to be played under such a format.
Velappan acknowledged that other Asian countries would likely be interested in staging the 2034 World Cup and he has called for governments in Southeast Asia to support his vision.
He said: “If I'm in the driving seat, there's a good possibility (of ASEAN voted as the host)! But our competitors will be a joint bid of North and South Korea, China and Japan. I've met with Chinese and Japanese officials and they're very keen of working together with the two Koreas. (But) Korea and Japan have already hosted it back in 2002, so ASEAN countries have a better chance; that's the logic behind it.
“This bid must have a 100 per cent government support because they have to be involved in a lot of aspects. We have eight years to work on the bid, as the hosting right to the 2034 tournament will be decided in 2026.
“We must first show our commitment, that we want to host the World Cup. Secondly the stadiums, but there are no problems on that regard in the region. Thirdly, the teams (must improve)!”
In September, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) declared its support for a proposed joint bid from Indonesia and Thailand to host the 2034 World Cup. In July 2017, Joko Driyono, deputy president of the Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI), said the country was keen to lead a Southeast Asian bid for the showpiece national team tournament and was seeking to speak with national governing bodies in the region about a possible joint bid.