Saudi Arabia Emerges as Sole Candidate to Host 2034 FIFA World Cup
In an exciting development for soccer enthusiasts around the world, FIFA has confirmed that Saudi Arabia is the only country to submit a bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup before the deadline. This announcement comes as a surprise after FIFA invited bids from Asia and Oceania for the tournament. Saudi Arabia made its bid just moments after the announcement on October 4, leaving Australia out of the running.
According to FIFA, the bidding and evaluation processes for the 2030 and 2034 World Cups will be conducted in accordance with the approved regulations, with the hosts to be chosen by FIFA Congresses expected to take place by the fourth quarter of 2024. Morocco, Portugal, and Spain have expressed their interest in hosting the 2030 World Cup, while Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay are set to host celebratory games.
Although FIFA still needs to officially approve Saudi Arabia as the host, this decision appears to be a mere formality and is expected to take place late next year. The Saudi Crown Prince’s sports spending program, regarded by some as an attempt to counteract negative perceptions of the nation, has played a significant role in securing this bid.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has developed a close relationship with Saudi soccer and the Crown Prince himself, leading to speculation that he has been actively working to ensure that the kingdom hosts FIFA competitions. The recent agreement between FIFA and Spain, Portugal, and Morocco to have a single host bid for the 2030 World Cup has expedited the hosting race for 2034, making only member federations in Asia and Oceania eligible to bid. The tight deadlines left potential bidding countries with less than four weeks to enter the race and only a month more to sign a bidding agreement with government support.
James Johnson, the leader of the Australian soccer federation, expressed surprise at the tight timetable but acknowledged that they would deal with the situation at hand. Following FIFA’s announcement on October 4, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which includes Australia, expressed their support for Saudi Arabia, making them a strong candidate to bring the World Cup back to the Middle East after Qatar’s successful hosting in 2022.
Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are likely to host the tournament during cooler months to avoid extreme heat. Saudi Arabia is also focused on building and renovating stadiums for its various upcoming tournaments, including the men’s Asian Cup in 2027. The bidding documents state that 14 stadiums will be needed for the 48-team tournament.
Despite the excitement surrounding Saudi Arabia’s bid, there are concerns about human rights issues in the nation. The country’s treatment of migrant workers and lack of labor and heat protections, union representation, independent human rights monitors, and press freedom have raised red flags. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Football Supporters Europe have criticized FIFA for not prioritizing human rights in its hosting decisions and expressed concerns about worker safety in Saudi Arabia.
As we eagerly await the official confirmation of Saudi Arabia as the host for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, soccer fans hope that this event will be a proud and successful moment for both the kingdom and the sport.
Information from Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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