Potential Indonesia-Australia joint bid emerges to rival Saudi Arabia’s FIFA World Cup aspirations
The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) has engaged in discussions with its Australian counterpart regarding a prospective joint bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, challenging Saudi Arabia’s sole bid.
Confirmed by the PSSI President, Erick Thohir, the bid may also involve Malaysia and Singapore, with FIFA setting a strict deadline of October 31 for interested parties to make an initial declaration of intent.
“We are in talks with Australia,” Thohir stated in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
“During my visit to Malaysia and Singapore, both countries expressed their interest in joining forces with Indonesia and Australia. We have strong potential, especially considering that the Middle East, with Qatar as the most recent host, and Japan and Korea, have already hosted.
“FIFA will likely explore other regions. The chances of success would increase if we joined forces with Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore.”
Thohir, a government minister and former owner of Inter Milan, said discussions have been ongoing since he initially raised the idea with his Football Australia counterpart at the FIFA Congress in Rwanda in March. He also noted that Indonesian President Joko Widodo responded positively to the prospect.
A joint bid from Australia and Indonesia faces stiff competition from Saudi Arabia, which formally declared its intention to bid earlier this week, supported by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. The Saudis claimed to have garnered support from over 70 FIFA member associations.
A potential bidding war between Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Australia would underscore the historical divisions within the AFC, where financial influence is concentrated in the Middle East, while political power remains further east, with the AFC maintaining its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Australia, which switched from the Oceania Football Confederation to the AFC in 2006, has previously expressed interest in hosting the men’s World Cup – and its capacity to do so was only galvanised by the success of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which it co-hosted with New Zealand.
“We’re going to bid for big competitions,” Football Australia Chief Executive James Johnson said in August.
“Our vision is to be local and global, and the way that we can be at our best in Australia is when we’re bringing big, global football content, the biggest events in the world, back to our local communities.”
In a significant development earlier this year, FIFA withdrew the hosting rights for the 2023 U20 World Cup from the PSSI due to local opposition to Israel’s participation in the tournament. Argentina was chosen as the replacement host. However, FIFA awarded Indonesia the hosting rights for the 2023 U17 World Cup, scheduled to take place from November 10 to December 2.
This decision came after FIFA expressed its commitment to actively assist the PSSI in the transformation of Indonesian football, following the tragic Kanjuruhan Stadium disaster in October 2022, which resulted in 135 deaths.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino pledged investment and technical support to enhance stadium safety in Indonesia.