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Philippines and Thailand push 2034 Asean World Cup agenda

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 09: Detail of the FIFA World Cup Trophy during the UEFA Nations League A group one match between France and Netherlands at Stade de France on September 9, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Sports officials from the Philippines and Thailand are putting momentum behind a bid by the region to host the 2034 Fifa World Cup.

Philippine Sports Commission chairman William Ramirez said the topic will be a focus of discussion at this week’s 5th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Sports, which is being hosted by the commission in Pasay City.

Last week, the Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchaitprakan said Thailand would be ready to host the event along with Asean countries, and a working committee, headed by the permanent secretary for sports and tourism, had been set up to work on the issue.

The moves build on statements in June by national leaders from Asean in support of a multi-territory bid. Asean comprises Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei.

This week’s Asean Ministerial Meeting on Sports is an assembly of top sports and government officials from 11 nations – the 10 Asean countries plus officials from Japan. Those taking part include His Excellency Sar Sokha of Cambodia, Phouvanh Vongsouthi of Laos, Tan Wei Ming of Singapore, Ahmad Shapawi Bin Ismail of Malaysia, His Excellency Aminuddin Ihsan Pehn Dato HJ Abidin of Brunei, Mya Than Htike of Myanmar, Kumekawa Hirokazu of Japan, Le Thi Hoang Yen of Vietnam, and His Excellency Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn of Thailand. These leaders are supported by a group of other sports officials from the countries meeting in parallel at the Senior Officials Meeting on Sports.

Besides the Asean World Cup bid, Ramirez said the 11 countries will work on revitalising the Asean Work Plan for Sports from 2016 to 2020, and discuss the establishment of a Southeast Asian esports foundation. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Ramirez said: “It will be a collaborative undertaking and part of the agenda for the entire region is to prioritise the concept of sports for all.”

Thailand plans to invest in new facilities to be ready for the World Cup bid and other sports event hosting opportunities. Channel News Asia reported last week that Sports Authority of Thailand governor Kongsak Yodmanee said there were currently no World Cup-standard football stadiums in Thailand. The country plans to upgrade existing stadia and build a new one in Chonburi that will also be part of a plan to host the 2026 Summer Youth Olympics.

Other venues set to be upgraded to support future sports event hosting bids include the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok, the 700th anniversary stadium in Changmai, and a sports complex in Nakhon Ratchasima that was named after the late King Bhumibol Adulyajej’s 80th birthday.

The final shape of any multi-territory Asia-Pacific bid to host the 2034 Fifa World Cup is yet to be confirmed. Australia is also interested in being part of a bid, and in June the country’s football federation said it has had talks with Indonesia about a joint bid and welcomed other Asean nations to join them. Peter Velappan, the former secretary general of the Asian Football Confederation, has separately called on Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia to join forces.