AFC chief gives Qatar's World Cup bid his backing

Mohamed bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, has thrown his weight behind his country's campaign.

SINGAPORE // Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup received a huge boost yesterday when Mohamed bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, threw his weight behind his country's campaign. The support of bin Hammam, also a Fifa Executive Committee member, was warmly welcomed by the Gulf nation, whose campaign to bring the tournament to the Middle East for the first time was initially considered an outside hope.

"I am grateful for the support shown by [bin Hammam]," Hassan al Thawadi, the chief executive of the Qatari bid, told Reuters on the sidelines of the Soccerex Asian Forum in Singapore. "He has always understood the benefits that a World Cup will bring to Qatar and the Middle East, and he has been pioneering in his vision. A World Cup in Qatar will be a historic opportunity for Fifa, for the teams, officials, fans and the people of the Arab world, helping bridge cultures between the East and the West and above all changing the perception of the region."

If, as expected, the World Cup goes to Europe in 2018, Qatar will be competing with the United States as well as South Korea, Japan and Australia for the 2022 event. Al Thawadi said that Qatar, whose team have never qualified for the World Cup, has had to overcome doubts about the seriousness of their bid. "At the start people were sceptical about our bid, today we have got followers," he said. Speaking earlier at Soccerex, a football business and networking event, bin Hammam revealed he would back his home country in the Fifa vote.

"I have one vote ... and frankly speaking I will vote for Qatar," bin Hammam said. The winning bid, along with the host of the 2018 tournament, will be announced by Fifa in Zurich on December 2. * Reuters