Four South American countries — Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay — launched their bid to stage the 2030 World Cup on Tuesday, and the venue made it very clear how the continent hopes to seduce its way to victory in the bid to stage the tournament.
The event was held in the Centenario Stadium in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo — the venue of the very first World Cup back in 1930. The 2030 edition, of course, will mark the centenary of the competition — and all of South America’s chips are placed on the sentimental appeal of the World Cup going back to its roots.
“There is one moment when the bus is passing,” said Uruguay president Lacalle Pou, “and we have to take it in 2030.”
“There will be other World Cups, ” added CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez, “but a hundred years is only completed once, and it should be done at the birthplace. All of football has a moral debt to those who dreamt and made the first World Cup possible, and that’s why we want the competition to come back where it began. We don’t have great economic resources, but we can point to the history.”
There is no way, though, that Uruguay could stage an entire World Cup, as it did in 1930. Montevideo is the only city of note, so a 48-team tournament would be well beyond its capacity. For that reason it is a joint bid, with the four countries in the mix.
Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay will have key games but Argentina would almost certainly end up staging most of the competition. The appeal to the value of the past is a strong one. It will have to be, because there is not a lot else to recommend the project, and it will be fascinating indeed to see how the FIFA Congress responds in November 2024, when a decision is due.
In any other circumstances, this bid would be a non-starter. Hard on the heels of 2026 tournament to be co-hosted by United States, Mexico, and Canada, it would mean two consecutive tournaments in the Western Hemisphere — and three in five when including Brazil 2014.
Other parts of the globe may well feel neglected — Asia and Africa, for example, and even western Europe, which has not staged a World Cup since 2006. Indeed, for this reason it is somewhat surprising that Spain and Portugal were persuaded to drop Morocco from their 2030 bid. A proposal covering both western Europe and North Africa might have carried considerable traction.
There are other grounds to have doubts about the South American bid. In order to go to the party, people would have to wrap up warmly. June and July are usually bitterly cold in that part of the world — even in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, where most of the rest of the year is marked by fierce heat.
And more importantly, there are economic worries. Less than six years would seem a dangerously short time to carry out all the necessary work — and projects carried out in a hurry tend to be expensive. This could have a political cost. Economic instability looks set to dominate the global outlook in the next few years, and this could make parts of South America especially turbulent.
Argentina, surely be the main base of the 2030 World Cup, is caught in a spiral of debt problems which may well result in extra calls for financial austerity. In such an environment, spending on a FIFA mega-event can prove highly controversial — as the Brazilian political class found to their surprise and alarm nine years ago, when an outbreak of demonstrations seized upon the 2013 Confederations Cup as a target for protest at what was seen as distorted government priorities. It would be unwise to rule out something similar taking place as spending mounts to stage 2030.
Which side of the argument, then, will carry the day — the romance or the risk? Will the FIFA Congress be swayed by the — undeniably sweet — idea of celebrating the World Cup’s centenary in its birthplace? Or might practicalities end up carrying the 2030 tournament somewhere else?
The Centenario stadium in Montevideo was built to stage the inaugural World Cup, its name a recognition of a hundred years of Uruguayan history. Now it may have another centenary to celebrate, and, for the moment at least, the ghosts who inhabit its terraces can dream of the football world coming to visit them once more.