Sports / China

Experts: China has strong shot to host World Cup

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-15 08:42

Now that the 2014 World Cup has ended, some Chinese are looking for ways to increase the country's participation in the global sporting event.

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Hosting the prestigious soccer tournament has become a stronger possibility, given President Xi Jinping's high interest in the game and the country's fast economic growth, observers said.

"There is a possibility that China will host the World Cup in the next 20 years as its fast-growing economy appeals to FIFA," said Adam Zhang, founder of sports consultancy company Key-Sports.

Mark Dreyer, a veteran sports reporter who has worked for ESPN and The Associated Press, agreed with Zhang, saying China's economic strength gives it a real shot at hosting the expensive event.

"With the cost of hosting huge sporting events appearing to become more expensive, fewer countries will want to bid for the right to host them, and that in turn favors larger, richer countries - of which China is certainly one," Dreyer said.

Hosting the tournament "should be part of China's long-term plan to develop the game and to build a solid soccer culture. It's a means, not a goal", Zhang said.

After meeting with Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of South Korea's Democratic Party, in 2011, Xi stated that his three wishes for Chinese soccer are qualifying for the World Cup, hosting the event and ultimately winning it.

Since its first attempt in 1957, China has had 10 Cup-qualifying campaigns but only succeeded once, in 2002, when hosts Japan and South Korea qualified automatically and freed up two final spots in the region.

With disappointments like China's humiliating 5-1 loss to Thailand in June 2013, the men's national team slid to No 103 on FIFA's world rankings and No 12 in Asia.

In 2010, Wei Di, former Chinese soccer chief, announced the country's interest in hosting the 2026 World Cup.

"I think it will be shameful to see China qualify for the World Cup again only because it hosts the event. It will be more embarrassing to see the host country eliminated after the round robin," said Wang Wen, president of Beijing Football Fan Club.

Still, winning the right to host the 2034 World Cup remains a possibility for China because of the way FIFA rotates continents when selecting a host country for the event, experts said.

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