Indonesia is in talks with Australia for a possible joint 2034 World Cup bid, its football chief has said, despite the Asian confederation declaring its support for Saudi Arabia’s candidacy.
Global football body FIFA has invited bids from the Asia and Oceania regions for the rotating World Cup hosting rights after naming Morocco, Spain and Portugal as joint hosts for 2030.
Riyadh’s bid is the latest step in a campaign to turn the kingdom into a global sports powerhouse but Indonesian FA president Erick Thohir, a government minister and former Inter Milan owner, said Jakarta and Canberra could prepare their own bid.
He told reporters on Tuesday he raised the issue with his Australian counterpart at the FIFA Congress in Rwanda in March and talks have continued since.
“At the time, Australia said ‘Let’s go together’, I replied ‘Okay, we’re ready’, it’s up to the government of each country to talk,” he told a news conference.
FIFA’s bid deadline of October 31 had accelerated talks, Thohir said.
Thohir also said he had raised the prospect with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who he said responded positively.
“The Australian side asked again ‘let’s do it seriously’,” he said.
Football Australia said last week it was exploring the option of bidding for the 2034 World Cup but did not mention a joint bid with Indonesia.
However, Australian football officials also said in June they were investigating the possibility of a joint bid with Indonesia.
Thohir said options for a joint bid included Indonesia and Australia with New Zealand, or Indonesia and Australia with Malaysia and Singapore.
“We’re still open to these options as the bidding process is still a few weeks ahead,” he said.
However, Indonesian football has been mired in controversy over the past year.
A stadium stampede in Java a year ago killed 135 people and Indonesia lost the hosting rights to the U-20 World Cup after protests in the Muslim-majority nation over Israel’s participation.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) threw its support behind the Saudi bid for the 2034 World Cup shortly after it was announced last week.
“The entire Asian football family will stand united in support of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s momentous initiative,” said AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain.
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