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World Cup 2030: South America Left Conflicted After Missing Out On Centenary Hosting Rights

World Cup 2030: South America Left Conflicted After Missing Out On Centenary Hosting Rights

By Marcus Haydon.

“Get ready for another little dance,” tweeted Alejandro Domínguez, the Paraguayan president of Conmebol on the morning of October 4, “because something global is coming the way of all football fans.”

The message was accompanied by a video of Domínguez dancing at what appeared to be a family get-together for Father’s Day.

An hour later and he was back: “The 2030 Centenario World Cup starts where it all began,” he announced. “The host of the opening matches of the Centenario World Cup will be Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.”

Such was Domínguez’s eagerness that his tweets preceded the official announcement of the decision by FIFA. That, combined with the absence of any reference to the Spain/Portugal/Morocco bid that had actually won the majority hosting rights, left many initially believing that the Conmebol bid had come out on top.

Only once full details of FIFA’s convoluted six-country, three-continent solution became clear did people realise South America would host just three of the tournament’s 104 matches.

For Uruguay, the historic keystone of the bid, being awarded the opening game — even if it was to be their only game — was seen as at least some recognition for the country’s pioneering role in the inaugural World Cup.

The country has long harboured hopes of hosting a centenary version of the tournament, but the expansion to 48 teams, along with the economic and political turmoil in neighbouring Argentina — a key ally in any bid — made that prospect increasingly unlikely.

Many, therefore, felt that the so-called “premio consuelo”, or consolation prize, was perhaps the best that could have been hoped for. “Something is better than nothing,” shrugged El País.

In Argentina, even once the initial fog of confusion had lifted, most were still left baffled by what FIFA had managed to concoct. With less entrenched ties to 1930, along with a seemingly interminable debt crisis and divisive presidential election campaign, Argentina has plenty of other distractions. Indeed, sports daily Olé didn’t even give the news top billing the day after the announcement, preferring instead to focus on Boca Juniors’ upcoming Copa Libertadores tie.

What did unite both countries was their distaste for the self-congratulatory tone that Domínguez and the other association presidents had adopted when delivering the announcement.

In a part of the world where the importance of winning can take on a particularly all-consuming quality, the suited executives had ultimately emerged from a long and costly bidding process with little to show for their efforts. Domínguez’s dancing and the mutual backslapping on show looked to many like an attempt to dress defeat as victory.

“Conmebol would never have secured the votes or investment needed to be 2030 hosts,” postulated La Nación. “For that reason, honesty would have been a healthier approach. Hosting these few symbolic matches is a testament to South American history, the only authentic flame.”

But what of Paraguay and Chile, the two other members of the South America bid? While the news was largely welcomed in Paraguay, above all because it guaranteed automatic qualification to the 2030 tournament, for Chile the outcome was one of exclusion and humiliation.

The last of the four nations to be added to the bid, Conmebol’s announcement made absolutely no reference to the Chileans. They had become an important part of the project too, with strong government backing and a campaign office established in Santiago.

Their last-minute ejection therefore came as a huge shock, most notably to unpopular federation chief Pablo Milad, who was reportedly only informed minutes before the news went public.

Conmebol claimed the decision had been taken by FIFA, but that did little to diffuse the sense of betrayal.

Chile’s dismay was perhaps sharpened by the decision to retain Paraguay in the reduced format. The latter’s inclusion was justified singularly by Domínguez as being “the home of Conmebol”, whose headquarters are located just outside the capital Asunción.

This has been the case since 1998 when the then-president, Nicolás Leoz — another Paraguayan — negotiated the construction of the complex with support from the Paraguayan government, who granted the territory legal immunity.

Conmebol subsequently played a central role in the FIFA Gate scandal of 2015, with Leoz collecting various criminal charges before dying while under house arrest in 2019.

There are rumours that Conmebol are now looking to build a stadium of their own to host Paraguay’s 2030 match, potentially located on land adjacent to their out-of-town base.

Given what’s gone before, an act of such vanity would surprise no one in the region.