On the night of Wednesday, May 17, 2017, I followed the news on CNN.
It was about USA, Mexico and Canada, in short the entire North American continent, bidding to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026 when the new 48-nation format will begin.
A renowned international journalist described the idea as the model of the future.
The Secretary General of CONCACAF, the North American Football Confederation, also described the bid one that is most likely to succeed because the region has all the required infrastructure in place to host the biggest single event in the world.
And also because only Africa could bid against North America considering that Asia, Europe and South America would have had their turns at hosting the last three World Cups before 2026! Africa should be clever and leave that bid for the North Americans.
The idea of a joint bid amongst more than the two (after Korea/Japan 2002) countries is not new.
It first came out of Africa in 2003 when Nigeria mooted and even proposed to lead a joint 4/5-nation bid to host the first World Cup in Africa 2010!
The idea was considered ludicrous at the time by a large section of the Nigerian media that shot down the project before it even left the tarmac.
Meanwhile, the reality at that time is that the idea was sprouting already. A study group had been set up by the Nigerian government to examine the feasibility of the project, meetings were held between representatives of the four West African countries, letters from the then President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, were written and delivered to the Presidents of Benin, Togo, Ghana and the Cameroon selling the idea and proposing a joint committee to advance the project.
An initial proto-type bid document was even prepared by the Nigerian study group for the West African countries to study and make inputs.
The excitement generated in all the countries except Nigeria was cut short then by an obviously shortsighted section of the Nigerian media that saw everything that made it an impossible mission but none of the things that could have made it a real possibility.
That was 14 years ago. This is now.
Now, the rest of the world has caught up with the idea and the most powerful nation on earth is proposing the Nigerian-model of 2003 and describing it as the future of the World Cup!
My admonition now again is that 2030 is just down the road in time.
In that year it will be Africa’s firm turn again to host the World Cup. The idea of a West African World Cup in 2030 to be led by Nigeria is there again for the taking.
That bid will represent the genuine model for the future of the World Cup – a financially lean and inexpensive competition that will not cripple entire national economies; one that will not leave White Elephant facilities in their wake; one that will not impoverish any single country but will make more countries share the costs and burdens as well as the huge benefits accruable from hosting it; one that will de-emphasise opulence and grandeur, reduce waste and introduce a genuine spirit of celebration, of humanity, of friendship, of peace, of unity and of international cooperation between nations, particularly, in a geographical region.
With 13 years to 2030 Africa must begin to mobilise to host the World Cup again.
A 5-nation West African bid by Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Benin is an attractive possibility! It can be done. It must be done. That will be the true model for the future of the World Cup.
Written by Segun Odegbami MON.
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