Saudi Arabia announced its intention to bid to host the 2034 Fifa World Cup, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported yesterday.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said that “the intention to host comes as an affirmation of the clear and great efforts made by the kingdom in spreading messages of peace and love in the world, of which sports is one of the most important and prominent aspects, as it is an important means for peoples of different races and cultures to meet,” the SPA statement added.
The Saudi Football Association plans to harness all necessary resources and expertise to provide an “unprecedented experience” for football fans.
The intent to host 2034 Fifa World Cup comes after Saudi Arabia’s national football team participated in six previous World Cup tournaments, including the Fifa World Cup 2022 held in Qatar.
“This announcement constitutes an important and natural step in our journey as a country passionate about football and a true embodiment of the success process witnessed by the kingdom,” said Minister of Sports and chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal.
Since 2018, Saudi Arabia has successfully hosted over 50 international sports events including football, motor sports, golf, electronic sports, tennis, and equestrian tournaments.
Meanwhile, in a surprise announcement a year earlier than planned Fifa allocated the 2030 World Cup to Morocco, Spain and Portugal yesterday but also said Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay will host three matches to mark the tournament’s centenary.
Fifa said the joint bid from Morocco, Portugal and Spain was the sole candidate to host the tournament.
The inaugural World Cup in 1930 was held in Uruguay and won by the hosts after they defeated Argentina in the final in Montevideo.
“The Fifa Council unanimously agreed that the sole candidacy will be the combined bid of Morocco, Portugal, and Spain, which will host the event in 2030 and qualify automatically from the existing slot allocation subject to the completion of a successful bidding process conducted by Fifa and a decision by the Fifa Congress in 2024,” Fifa said in a statement.
“Additionally, having taken into account the historical context of the first-ever Fifa World Cup, the Fifa Council further unanimously agreed to host a unique centenary celebration ceremony in the country’s capital, Montevideo... as well as three World Cup matches in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay respectively.”
With the World Cup being held across six countries in two different hemispheres, it might mean some teams play their group matches in different seasons.
The 2022 World Cup was held in Qatar but it was moved from the traditional mid-year window and played in November and December to avoid playing in the searing heat of the Gulf summer.
Argentina are the defending champions and their football association (AFA) said their team “will play the first match of the 2030 group stage at home and with its people”.
“In a divided world, Fifa and football are uniting,” Fifa president Gianni Infantino said.
“The Fifa Council... unanimously agreed to celebrate the centenary of the Fifa World Cup, whose first edition was played in Uruguay in 1930, in the most appropriate way.
“As a result, a celebration will take place in South America and three South American countries – Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay – will organise one match each of the Fifa World Cup 2030.”
Infantino said the first of these three matches would be played at Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario, where the first World Cup took place in 1930.
Robert Harrison, the president of the Paraguayan Football Association, said Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay would automatically qualify for the World Cup but did not clarify what that would mean for the South American qualifying competition.