Qataris ponder bid to host World Cup finals

The Gulf state of Qatar is considering an ambitious bid to become the first Arab country to host the World Cup finals, a senior official said on Tuesday. Saud al Mohannadi, secretary-general of the Qatar Football Association, said the oil and gas rich state had "the means and the ability" to host the finals, either in 2018 or 2022 and would make a decision early next year. "We are interested and we believe we can successfully host such a prestigious event as the World Cup finals," Al Mohannadi told Reuters by telephone. "We have the stadiums and we have experience hosting top sports events. We don't want to rush into anything, we need to find out what the full requirements are, but we are interested." FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently said the host cities for the 2018 and 2022 finals would be announced at the same time, with the bidding process for both to be launched in January and decided by December 2010. The reason, Blatter said, was made to allow countries more time to secure funds and sponsors and complete infrastructure work at a time of global economic recession. Qatar will host the 2011 Asian Cup soccer finals and has successfully organised events on the global tennis, golf and MotoGP circuits, as well as the 2006 Asian Games, widely considered the most successful edition to date. Earlier this year, with financial backing from the country's ruling family, it launched a bid to stage the 2016 Olympic Games in its capital Doha but failed to get on the shortlist of host cities. Qatar is likely to face stiff opposition from England, Netherlands and Australia, as well as Spain and Portugal, who last week said they would bid to jointly host the finals. China, Mexico, Belgium and Russia have also reportedly shown interest.