By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia has held talks with Indonesia about making a joint bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, despite the Southeast Asian nation’s involvement in another bid with regional neighbors for the same tournament.
Football Federation Australia told Reuters on Thursday that it had met Indonesian soccer federation (PSSI) officials to discuss a 2034 bid at an ASEAN meeting last week.
“Football Federation Australia confirms it has held discussions with the Indonesia Football Association (PSSI) about the possibility to jointly bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup,” the FFA said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
“An Indonesia-Australia joint bid was also discussed at last week’s ASEAN Football Federation Council Meeting in Laos.”
The revelation came only days after Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told a news conference in Bangkok that 10 countries from the ASEAN bloc, including Indonesia, would bid for 2034.
It was unclear how advanced discussions were between Australia and Indonesia, with statements from both federations suggesting the talks were preliminary, at best.
The FFA said it noted the joint South East Asian bid was endorsed at the ASEAN summit and declined to elaborate whether talks with Indonesia were ongoing.
“FFA welcomes the opportunity to further discuss a ASEAN bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup with fellow Member Associations in the region,” the statement added.
Indonesian media, citing PSSI secretary general Ratu Tisha, reported on Wednesday that the federation had decided to partner with Australia after Thailand had pulled out of the 2034 bid because it was “not ready”.
A PSSI executive told Reuters the Indonesian federation would be willing to work with “anyone” on a 2034 bid.
“Of course we welcome it (a joint bid with Australia) and we will work hard to make it happen,” Yoyok Sukawi, a member of the PSSI’s executive committee, said.
“Indonesia is ready to work with anyone, it can be ASEAN, it can be with Australia.”
Australia was a candidate in the controversial bidding process for the 2022 World Cup awarded to Qatar but managed to win only one vote from FIFA’s executive council members in 2010.
The losing Australian bid, funded by over A$40 million ($27.96 million) of government money, triggered strident criticism of the FFA and its methods by a FIFA-appointed ethics investigator who found the federation had funneled money into development projects with ties to FIFA’s voting exco members.
The 2026 World Cup is being jointly hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Multiple countries have expressed interest in making joint bids for the 2030 finals, including South American and eastern European nations.
($1 = 1.4304 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; additional reporting by Fanny Potkin in Jakarta, Editing by Nick Mulvenney and Sudipto Ganguly)