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2009.02.14 20:57:40
Jake Brown

The battle for the hosting rights to the 2018 World Cup is going to be fiercely contested. The number of prospective candidates hit eleven by the FIFA deadline last week. Europe will be looking for a return to its shores after two absences – in South Africa next year and in Brazil in 2014.

If Europe loses these rights, it will be the first time that three World Cup competitions will take place outside Europe in succession.

But in Europe, many countries are contesting it and a divided house, thus splitting votes might just hand the ticket over to one of the seeming underdogs.

Last week, Nigeria hosted the General Assembly of CAF (the Confederation of African Football). The event, which always marks the biggest gathering of the top football administrators from across the continent, was also witnessed by the FIFA President Sepp Blatter. 

Strangely, other dignitaries that graced the occasion were the UEFA President Michel Platini, the Spanish Federation President, who is also a Vice President of FIFA Angel Maria Villar Lonna and the England FA Chairman Lord Triesman were all in attendance.

It is quite interesting that Villar Lonna did not attend the friendly between his country and England played in Seville, for the reason that he came to attend the FIFA Congress in Lagos; all in the name of being a FIFA Vice President and hence accompanying Blatter and Platini. Even more amusing is the fact that Lord Triesman of England also did not attend the Seville match, rather choosing to come to Lagos Nigeria for the same Congress.

Triesman had a valid excuse – the scheduling of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between CAF and the English FA, on football development and assistance to the African continent by the pioneering footballing nation. But one can not but see beyond the facade, in that Triesman is also the Chairman of the England 2018 Bid and it would be an opportunity to put his face about with the big boys of Africa whose votes he would rely on to upstage the opposition and win the hosting rights.

His aides were very quick to refute this, though, stating that, ‘we had wanted to put this MoU into place since December, and would have had Lord Triesman go to Cairo to do the signing long before this day’. They explained that it was at the instance of CAF that the signing was scheduled for Lagos.

‘We have had a long standing relationship with Africa at the English FA, and long before we even thought about bidding for the World Cup, we had been working on development projects in places like  Lesotho, Botswana and Malawi, to say but a few’, Jane Bateman, the FA’s Head of International Relations was quoted as saying.

But the silent undertones are there, and it makes for interesting viewing. There was also a representative of the Belgium/Holland bid, who was very eager to state to all concerned, that Belgium had suddenly found a flair for putting up development projects in 25 African countries over the next 2 years!

Other bidding countries that sent representatives are Qatar, through an agent of Mohamed bin Hammam, and South Korea, through its Federation Vice President Mr Kim.

Suddenly, Africa has become the bride that everyone wants, with four crucial votes to come from the continent.

One thing is looking good, and that is the fact that, with these battles going on, African football looks like it could benefit positively from all these initiatives. Votes or no votes, African football will grow, if the administrators play their cards right.

Jake Brown


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