BEIJING - China is interested in bidding for the 2026 World Cup, Chinese soccer chief Wei Di has said.
Wei, who has watched several games at the just-concluded World Cup, was impressed by his experiences in South Africa and said the Chinese Football Association will submit a bid proposal to the General Administration of Sport of China "as soon as possible".
"I think China should apply for the World Cup. We will make an official report to the sport's governing body shortly," Wei told Titan Sports newspaper.
Wei said he also hopes other Asian countries will not win the bid for the 2022 edition and "foil China's chances".
"At the World Cup final, I noticed a group of Chinese fans holding our national flag. A number of people also held a banner which read 'China, see you in 2014'. I had mixed feelings then," Wei, who was not available for comment on Friday, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"We have so many fans that are crazy for the sport and they care for our national team so much, we should give them a chance to watch the World Cup on home soil," Wei said.
After the success of the Beijing Games, China reportedly considered bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Sepp Blatter, the president of soccer governing body FIFA, also expressed support. But the country did not apply to host the event.
"Hosting the World Cup was not only about development or the tournament's commercial value to soccer, it also helped unite South Africa as a nation," Wei said.
"With China's status and influence in the international community, and with our infrastructure - which is no worse than South Africa's, how could we not be confident enough to bid for the World Cup?" Wei asked.
China now boasts four stadiums with a capacity of more than 60,000, including the Bird's Nest in Beijing.
The next World Cup finals will be held in Brazil in 2014 and FIFA will decide the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 events by the end of this year.
South Korea and Japan jointly hosted the World Cup in 2002, while Qatar and Australia, which are also members of the Asian Football Confederation, have already applied for the 2022 edition, which worries Wei.
"To be honest, I don't want Asian countries to win the bid for the 2022 World Cup as it would be impossible for Asia to host two World Cups in a row," he said.
"South Korea and Japan have already held the World Cup. Qatar is too hot and the population is small, how could there be enough spectators? Australia is also an Asian country in terms of soccer. I hope the US will win the bid so we'll have a better chance," he said.
"I know some people are still against the proposal as the sport in China is still struggling. But there are 16 years to go before 2026 and things can change a lot during that time. Why can't we be more optimistic?"
(China Daily 07/17/2010 page1)