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ASEAN mulling 2034 World Cup bid: Burma football federation

Myanmar Football Federation President Zaw Zaw, left, Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, second left, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino, centre, take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a national football academy in Rangoon on 17 February 2017. (Photo: AFP)

ASEAN on Friday held talks on launching a joint bid for the World Cup in 2034 during a visit by FIFA chief Gianni Infantino to Rangoon, the head of Burma’s football federation said.

Football officials from the 10-member Southeast Asian bloc are keen to capitalise on Infantino’s decision to expand the tournament to 48 teams by 2026, said Myanmar Football Federation chairman Zaw Zaw.

“Today, this morning, we had a council meeting [about when] we’re going to host the World Cup in ASEAN,” he told crowds gathered for the opening of a new football academy in Rangoon.

“We were discussing 2034.”

Infantino, the head of football’s governing body, has backed allowing up to three countries to host the event instead of expecting one bidder to provide a dozen stadiums.

“I support co-hosting, which opens of course the doors to many associations, and ASEAN is a region which is passionate about football,” he told reporters.

“For a country alone in the ASEAN region it’s difficult to host the World Cup, but for several countries, why not?”

The decision to expand the World Cup has delighted footballing minnows in Asia, titillated by the once impossible prospect of making the showpiece tournament.

Asian countries have largely failed to make an impact at the event, which is dominated by European and South American teams, although co-hosts South Korea reached the semifinals in 2002.

Southeast Asian football attracts enormous support but it has frequently been plagued by match-fixing, as seen by the suspension of four Laos internationals late last year.

Infantino told reporters the larger World Cup would allow “teams all over the world to dream to be able to participate.”