FIFA would increase the number of teams for their marquee event, the World Cup, to 64 teams to accommodate the participation of all South East Asian teams.
This was announced following Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan yesterday that a working committee has been set-up to initiate the joint bid to host the World Cup.
This was in line with the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who had announced in June that the decision was well received by region’s leaders during their meeting in Bangkok.
The 2026 World Cup to be jointly hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada will feature 48 teams for the first time.
FIFA in its statement said that the ASEAN region deserved better and should they win their bid, FIFA would vote to increase the number of finals qualifiers to 64.
The last South East Asian team to qualify for the World Cup finals was the Dutch East Indies team in 1938. Don’t bother looking it up in any latest map of the region as prior to its independence, Indonesia competed at the World Cup as the Dutch East Indies.
The team only played one match in the tournament, losing 0-6 to eventual finalists Hungary. They only qualified for the tournament after their opponents Japan withdrew from the qualifying match.
FIFA wants to ensure that the game goes truly global and allow direct qualification to not only Thailand but also to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Timor Leste, Vietnam and Brunei.
The position of Australia, who joined the Asean Football Federation in 2013 remains to be decided.
However, it is highly unlikely that the Socceroos would be accorded the same benefits as they had qualified for the World Cup Finals on five occasions – 1974, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.
“The Aussies can take the normal route to qualify, it is us the genuine SEA football teams that deserve this break. Look it has been more than 80 years since any team from the region played at the World Cup. But even in 1938 the players were not actually Indonesians,” said a senior Asean Football Federation official.
While the 2026 tournament would be the first to be hosted jointly by three countries, the 2034 tournament, should the bid headed by Thailand win as expected, would set a new record for the sports.
Just in case that the bid be derailed by an equally compelling bid by China, the joint bidding group also have a back-up plan. The proposal was to have a South East Asian team to be given a wild card entry to the World Cup should the joint bid fails.
The committee is expected to propose that the SEA countries pick two top players from each country and participate at the 2034 World Cup as SEA All Stars team.
With almost 10% of the world population, South East Asia is a football crazy region. So crazy that the region was also riddled with various match-fixing scandals in the past.
FIFA cannot afford to overlook the region for much longer. Never mind that none of the regions team are even ranked in the top 100 of the FIFA world rankings.
This post is a satire publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, and based almost entirely in fiction.