Overseas players to back England bid

LONDON - England countered criticism that their 2018 World Cup bid lacked 'stardust' by presenting a squad of past and present overseas players as international ambassadors on Thursday.

The list included Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure, Paraguay's Roque Santa Cruz, Nigeria's Nwankwo Kanu, Argentina's 1978 World Cup winners Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, Italy's Gianfranco Zola and South Africa's Lucas Radebe.

"We feel each and every individual will be a tremendous asset to England 2018," bid chief executive Andy Anson told a Leaders in Football conference at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium.

England players like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and former greats Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer have already given the bid their backing.

The FA said each ambassador would offer support to England 2018 at home and abroad, including use of their images in promotional materials and in meetings with key figures.

CONCACAF president and FIFA executive member Jack Warner had warned on Wednesday that England's bid needed to exploit its heavyweight support and push players like Beckham to the forefront.

"Some of the guys who have to vote do not know the people on the England bid committee - but they know Beckham, they know Michael Owen," he said.

FA chairman Lord Triesman recognised in a keynote address that Warner had made some important points but said England had also learned from their last failed attempt to secure the tournament.


Triesman said a successful England bid would have an impact on regions around the world, particularly in the developing nations whose players were familiar faces in the Premier League.

In a dig at some rivals, whose national leagues continue to suffer incidents of racism, he emphasised racial harmony and said the new ambassadors would demonstrate that point.

"Because of England's diversity and integration, players from every nation enjoy a home from home welcome. They are the best witnesses when they describe their enjoyment of playing in English grounds," he said.

"They will help us take our message across the world and I hope help us bring the World Cup here in 2018," said Triesman.

"They are able to point out, because we faced our demons in the past, that in England you can play your football without racial abuse and that's not true everywhere.

"And you can also do it with the assurance that when we see signs of any re-emergence of the problem we will stamp on it, we will take it on head-on," he added.

Triesman said England's last failed bid had been rightly criticised in the past for "hectoring people about our right to host the World Cup.

"I think it was as crude as it was ineffective," he added of that approach. "So we've spent what must seem a long, quiet period listening and learning from the global football family.

"I don't regret that but I take the point that you must move beyond that to put what you have learned to good use, use the great assets effectively and to remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint."

Anson said England had also learned from Chicago's experience at the recent vote for the 2016 Olympics won by Rio de Janeiro: "I don't consider we are favourites, I think we've got to work very hard," he said.