RIYADH: Unpack those green scarves and replica shirts — the football World Cup, the biggest sports show on Earth, is coming to Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom is the only remaining bidder for the 2034 tournament after sole rivals Australia pulled out, the sport’s world governing body FIFA said on Tuesday. The decision will be ratified officially at a special FIFA congress at the end of next year.
Saudi Arabia had initially been interested in bidding for the 2030 World Cup alongside Egypt and Greece, but that idea was abandoned in June leaving the path open for a tri-continental bid by Spain, Portugal and Morocco, with three matches in South America.
The Kingdom said on Oct. 4 that it would bid for the 2034 event, minutes after the process was launched.
As a result of the tournament’s continental rotation, FIFA invited only member countries of the Asian and Oceanian confederations to apply. Indonesia considered a joint bid with Australia, or other countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, but on Oct. 19 it swung behind Saudi Arabia’s bid.
Australia, which hosted the Women’s World Cup this year, was also a contender but withdrew its interest afterthe Asian Football Confederation’s decision to back the Saudi bid.
Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said bidding for the tournament was “not going to be favorable to Australia.” He said: “Saudi is a strong bid. They have a lot of resources, and not just for the 2034 World Cup. From the government, top down they are prioritizing investment in football. That is difficult to compete with.”
The Kingdom has hosted a raft of major sporting events since 2018, including football, Formula 1, golf and boxing, and will stage football’s Club World Cup in December.