One of the most senior figures in Asian football has told Indonesia that if the country wishes to be part of a future World Cup then its best bet lies with Southeast Asia not Australia.
Last month Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister of Thailand, announced that the ten nations of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had discussed the possibility of co-hosting the 2034 World Cup at regional summit.
Days later, however, it emerged that Indonesia had held preliminary talks with Australia about staging a bid of their own but according to Somyot Poonmanmuong, the president of the Football Association of Thailand, these are early days.
“There is a lot of time before anything is decided but Australia and Indonesia could certainly work together if they want to,” Somyot told The World Game. “There would be a lot of flying though as the distances are a long way.”
Thailand is expected to be a leading member of any Southeast Asian bid but it remains to be seen how many of the ten ASEAN member nations would be involved.
Whatever happens, Somyot wants Indonesia to stay with the Southeast Asian bid, if it does in fact go ahead.
“If Indonesia can choose then working with Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore would be more comfortable for them. It would also be more familiar.”
Somyot admitted that losing Indonesia would put a dent in the chances of an ASEAN bid. One of the main themes of any campaign would be the benefits -- both of the financial and the football kind -- of bringing the tournament to a region of over 600 million people.
Indonesia, with its population of over a quarter of a billion people, is the biggest country in Southeast Asia.
“Of course, it makes our bid stronger if Indonesia are with us but 2034 is still a long way from now," Somyot said.