Hey Southeast Asia, why not take a chance and bid for the Confederations Cup?
With FIFA confirming they have no fixed plans in place, and with a mid-year tournament in Qatar seemingly close to impossible, the time is right for a Southeast Asian nation to strike and make a bold bid to host what would be the biggest tournament ever held in the region.
Four of the past five editions of the event have been used as a prelude for the following year’s World Cup, but with several European nations up in arms over the timing of the showpiece tournament in Qatar, it seems highly unlikely the Middle Eastern nation would be allowed to switch the event from its traditional mid-year slot.
With the World Cup unlikely to return to Asia for another couple of decades, this could be the last time in generations Southeast Asia has the chance to host a major tournament
Rather there have been suggestions floated that Qatar could host the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year in 2021 as a warm-up tournament for the main event, opening the window for another nation to step in and host the ‘Confeds’.
Given that since 2001 the same region that was awarded the World Cup rights has hosted the competition, it makes sense that another Asian Football Confederation nation would step up and look to run what is one of the biggest football tournaments in the world.
With the World Cup itself unlikely to return to Asia for another couple of decades, and then almost certainly in China, this could be the last time in generations Southeast Asia has the chance to host a major FIFA tournament.
That, in turn, has immense potential to entrench existing audiences and truly grow the sport right across the region
As it stands now the closest the region comes to rubbing shoulders with football royalty is the fly-in, fly-out matches that European clubs engage in with little regard for building any kind of relationship with the region outside of lining their own pockets or a series of ‘matches’ where over-the-hill retirees turn out for one final payday.
The host nation would gain entry into the event and this has limitless potential for growth
Hosting the Confederations Cup has the potential to truly change the way the sport is perceived and experienced.
There’s a long-standing infatuation throughout the region with football in Europe, but not only would this bring UEFA’s best to the doorstep – and who knows, by then it might even be England, which would truly set hearts racing – but also the best of the best from other regions that get little exposure.
Most importantly of all, the host nation would gain entry into the event and this has limitless potential for growth both in the years leading up to the tournament and during the staging of it.
You can take all the ‘glamour’ friendly matches you want against international sides visiting the region for a holiday laugh and with multiple star players missing.
But hosting the Confederations Cup assures that nation of three bona-fide, competitive matches against the best of the best.
In this tournament alone it would’ve meant the likes of Mexico’s Javier Hernandez, Gio dos Santos and Hector Moreno and Portugal’s Pepe, Joao Moutinho, Andre Gomes and one Cristiano Ronaldo all gracing the shores of the region, as well as a New Zealand side that has several European-based stars in the ranks, but may also provide the kind of opposition that could be seriously challenged.
It means two weeks of high quality matches, fans travelling from across the planet to support their teams and worldwide media interest.
It means local supporters flocking to match venues, gathering in fan zones and being exposed to blanket daily coverage of the game.
Just as importantly it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for the nation that hosts the tournament to expose their side to elite competition and to put themselves in the shop window for however far down the track the World Cup itself returns to Asia.
Southeast Asia has shown it has the capacity to pull off the hosting of major tournaments, with Malaysia the venue for the 1997 U20 World Cup and the quartet of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam hosting the 2007 AFC Asian Cup with great success.
The question then becomes where would be the most ideal location if a Southeast Asian nation is prepared to put a bid in, with the backing of both the ASEAN sub-confederation and of the AFC itself?
Both Thailand and Malaysia have the required number of cities/venues to host with ease, Indonesia has the stadium with the highest capacity, while Singapore has the most modern venue.
Vietnam can lay claim to having a football-loving population that at least matches any of those other four nations though again Singapore is probably better equipped in terms of overall infrastructure.
Either way, any number of nations are more than capable of hosting what would be a fantastic showcase of the region and an invaluable exercise in growing the game for local fans.
On the same day India expressed formal interest in bidding for the rights for the 2019 U20 World Cup, if Southeast Asia is serious in bringing real global football to the region – rather than one-off matches here and there – the time for action is now.