Wed, 08 Jan 2003

Nigeria puts in bid to host 2010 World Cup

Eniwoke Ibagere, Reuters, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria, one of six African countries to officially register an interest in staging the 2010 World Cup finals, said on Monday they were heading up a joint-bid involving four of their West African neighbors.

Earlier on Monday FIFA announced that Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia had all submitted their initial bids by the December 31 deadline.

Later on Monday Segun Odegbami, the head of the Nigerian bid, said that Nigeria was joining four other nations in their effort to stage the first African finals.

"Cameroon, Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo are our West African neighbors and we have got them involved in this grand-scale plan," Odegbami said.

"We have spoken to their football ambassadors and we are getting their governments to back it. The Nigerian government is supporting this."

In response, FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said: "From FIFA's perspective, six associations have registered their initial interest by the deadline.

"The Nigerian letter expressing their interest does not mention any other countries, but the bidding process is, clearly, at a very early stage and we shall deal with any changes to the Nigerian bid as and when we are officially informed."

The only other bid for a major football competition as geographically adventurous as the mooted West African bid was a failure.

Last month a four-nation Scandinavian bid from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland to host the 2008 European Championships was rejected by UEFA, who awarded the tournament to a smaller joint bid from Austria and Switzerland.

Last year's World Cup in South Korea and Japan was the first as a shared event.

But the Nigerian bid leader was optimistic about their plan.

Odegbami added: "Nigeria is the fulcrum on which this bid is rotating, the other four are ancillary. The idea has, however, sparked a great interest among the countries who say it's too good to be true -- they will be having at least a World Cup game.

"Our plan is to have four of the venues in Nigeria and the rest spread across our four ECOWAS neighbors."

ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) was launched in 1975 to weld together the 16 countries in the region and promote regional commerce and trade.

Officials say plans are at an advanced stage to launch a common ECOWAS currency and airline next year.

Odegbami said: "These will be part of the facilities for our bid and help spread the responsibility of hosting such a big event."

The bid committee would be inaugurated in the Nigerian capital Abuja this week, he said, adding: "Then, we will start the serious work of bringing out something more concrete by April."

Bidders have until April 30 to formally confirm or withdraw their declaration of interest, while bids are to be presented to FIFA in August.

Last September, FIFA's Executive Committee confirmed the 2010 finals would be held in Africa to start the principle of the World Cup rotating around the continents.

South Africa failed by one vote to win the right to stage the 2006 World Cup, which went to Germany while Morocco are now bidding for the fourth time.

FIFA is expected to name which country will stage the finals in May 2004.