DOHA // The 2022 Qatar World Cup will have a "huge" impact on sports and business in the region, Mohamed bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said yesterday.
"If you ask me what is the impact of organising the World Cup on this region, that is very huge," he said a few hours before the kick-off of the Asian Cup final. "The region will benefit from tourists. Economically, a lot of infrastructure is to be built. A lot of people are going to come to work for construction of this infrastructure.
"I see a huge impact, including in the way that the game of football will be promoted - in a very huge way. The legacy the World Cup will leave in this region, I cannot actually mention all of it in this conference."
Bin Hammam said - again - that he thinks all the matches will be held in Qatar, as originally planned. "I don't think any other country will have part of this competition," he said yesterday.
Bin Hammam also addressed the widening gap between football in west and east Asia, the timing of the quadrennial Asian Cup and his hope that the 2015 event will commit US$10 million (Dh36.7m) in prize money for the top three finishers, who receive no money at this tournament.
He said that when he became president of the AFC in 2002, he viewed Japan's federation and professional league as models for the region. "They showed it can be made in Asia, so someone cannot say it's European or South American," he said. "It's Asian people and Asian games so we can't listen to complaints that 'we can't do it'."
Of late, the eastern countries have dominated AFC competition. Clubs from Japan or South Korea have won five consecutive Asian Champions League titles; all four of Asia's qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup were from the eastern half of the continent; and the top three finishers at this Asian Cup also come from the eastern edge of the continent.
"The east today, actually Japan and Korea and Australia, are enjoying the benefit of their professionalism," bin Hammam said. "You can see that the players from these countries are more mature on the field and handle the match and decide what can they do for the match, unlike some of their colleagues from the west. It looks to me like [players from the west] are panicked if they are losing, and even more panicked to hold onto a result for themselves.
"So the professionalism needs to take its time [to reach the west]. The player from east Asia is more mature than the player in west Asia. From a technical point of view, they are superior."
He said he anticipates that the Asian Cup will retain its timing in the year following the World Cup. He said holding the event two years before or after a World Cup does not make sense because of potential scheduling conflicts with the European Cup and the Summer Olympics.
"The Uefa championship is in May and the Olympics are in August, and we could see our competition sandwiched between these major events," he said. "I believe from a marketing and promotion point of view it is not the right decision. Let's face it, Uefa Cup or Asian Cup, people from TV, or from the sponsor's point of view or fan's point of view, will focus on the Uefa cup."