Australia’s World Cup bid has suffered an untimely setback with Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam effectively promising his vote to Qatar to host the 2022 tournament.
Bin Hammam’s comments couldn’t come at a worse time for Football Federation Australia, which has spent the past three days trying to impress a six-man FIFA inspection team in town to assess the country’s bid credentials.
Qatari Hammam, one of 24 FIFA executives who will vote on hosts for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments on December 2 in Zurich, has vowed to support his home nation unless it is not a realistic chance.
“I have one vote … And frankly speaking, I will vote for Qatar,” said the AFC president.
“But if Qatar is not in the run, I will vote for another Asian country,” Bin Hammam said at a football forum in Singapore.”
“I am president of Asia so it is my duty to see that World Cup will be hosted in Asia no matter which country.”
Qatar has emerged as one of Australia’s biggest rivals for the 2022 tournament, with the US another strong candidate and South Korea and Japan also in the running.
The six FIFA delegates in Australia were shown a presentation on the 10 potential host cities and 12 stadiums at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre on final day of their three-day visit.
The inspection team was due to fly to Newcastle, one of the potential host cities, but the visit was cancelled due to heavy rain and they were instead taken to Darling Harbour’s Sydney Wildlife World to see the resident 4.8-metre saltwater crocodile.
They had earlier attended a breakfast meeting with some of Australia’s leading business figures.
The FIFA inspection team was headed by Chilean Football Federation President Harold Mayne-Nicholls and also included chief executive of the 2010 South Africa World Cup organising committee Danny Jordaan, FIFA Head of Event Management Jurgen Muller, FIFA Marketing representative David Fowler, FIFA Competitions representative Julio Avellar and FIFA Media Officer Wolfgang Eichler.
Australia was the third stop on tour of the nine countries that are bidding to host either the 2018 or 2022 tournaments.