Asean-Fifa accord sparks optimism

Asean-Fifa accord sparks optimism

Joint World Cup bid plan pleases Infantino

Asean hopes its collaboration with Fifa will help fulfil the Southeast Asian organisation's ambition to bring the 2034 World Cup to the region.

During the Asean Summit in Bangkok on Saturday, the group and Fifa signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a formal cooperation between the two entities to leverage the role of football in social development in the region.

"We welcome the signing of the MoU between Asean and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) that would support football cooperation and complement efforts towards Asean's joint bid to host the Fifa World Cup 2034," the 10 Asean leaders said in a statement at the conclusion of the Asean Summit yesterday.

The MoU was signed by Asean secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi and Gianni Infantino, president of global football's governing body Fifa.

The deal was inked just weeks after Asean countries agreed to support a joint bid to host the 2034 World Cup by five of its members -- Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines make up the 10-nation grouping.

The MoU does not mention the World Cup.

"The new MoU covers a broad range of collaboration areas with a strong focus on education, in particular through the implementation of Fifa's Football for Schools Programme to foster life skills and physical education through football for boys and girls in schools across the Southeast Asian region," said an article in Fifa's website

"The alliance will also see Fifa and Asean collaborate in the implementation of common strategies to promote healthy lifestyles and inclusive participation in football, particularly for women and marginalised communities."

Infantino told the Asean leaders on Saturday: "I'm very excited about the journey that we are starting today. It is our duty and our task to come here, to work together and to invest. To invest in football, in our youth, in your boys and girls because as we know it football is a school of life."

He added: "After some decades of discussion among all the Asean countries, finally we found the one topic that unites everyone. It's this -- it's football.

"People in your countries, businesses in your countries invest 10 times more in European football than in football in Asean. We need to invest in Asean."

Infantino said he was pleased with Asean's plan to bid for the World Cup. "This is something that is worth pursuing for such a big part of the world. We have to work to invest in football, in club competitions, in a true Asean champions league."

Several other countries have shown interest in staging the 2034 World Cup including China, Egypt, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and joint bidders Australia and New Zealand.

Japan and South Korea were the first Asian countries to stage the World Cup in 2002, while Qatar will organise the 2022 World Cup.

Indonesia is the only Southeast Asian country to have appeared at the World Cup when it took part in the 1938 finals as Dutch East Indies.

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