Japan vows to pursue World Cup dreams

Tokyo: Disappointed but not defeated, Japan said today it still wanted to stage the football World Cup by 2050, while acknowledging that China would likely emerge as a strong rival to host the extravaganza.

After losing out to Qatar in a FIFA vote in Zurich yesterday for the right to host the 2022 World Cup, Japan Football Association president Junji Ogura told reporters that Tokyo would not give up its dream of staging the event.

"We won`t change it," he said, when asked about Japan`s long-standing ambition of holding the premier footballing event within the next 40 years, while warning that China would likely emerge as a "very strong rival".

"They have a big population, they can build big stadia and mobilise a record number of spectators," he said. China, with a population of some 1.3 billion, has a potentially massive footballing market that FIFA is keen to tap.

The head of the Chinese Football Association, Wei Di, told state media this week that Beijing should bid for the World Cup.

"I have always felt that it would only be a matter of time for China, as a major nation in the world, to host the World Cup," he was quoted as saying.

However, Qatar`s victory likely means Asia will not be awarded the 2026 World Cup, and a 2030 hosting of the event by an Asian nation could also hit a snag as the event normally rotates between continents.

Ogura`s deputy Kuniya Daini said that Japan, which co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with neighbouring South Korea, was ready to compete with China, which last month staged the Asian Games after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"We have experience," he told reporters. Japan hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics and two Winter Games, in 1972 and 1998.

Asked why Japan had lost out to Qatar in yesterday`s vote, Ogura said countries that had yet to host the cup held an advantage over Japan, which co-hosted the 2002 event with South Korea.

Tokyo had promoted its 2022 bid with a USD six billion plan to allow 360 million people worldwide to watch matches live in 3D telecasts at nearly 400 specially selected stadia across FIFA`s 208 member countries.

But it needs to renovate its football facilities. Eight of the 13 stadia scheduled to host matches were used at the 2002 World Cup, with a new, 83,000-capacity solar-powered arena scheduled for construction in Osaka.

"I`m very disappointed," Yoshito Sengoku, the top government spokesman, told reporters.

"Japan appealed with a concept of co-hosting the World Cup with the people around the world using cutting-edge IT-technologies... but it was not successful," he said.

Japan got as far as the second round in yesterday`s vote after Australia was eliminated in the first. South Korea was next to go as Qatar and the United States went head-to-head in the fourth and final round.

The business daily Nikkei said that while Japan may have had the most original concept, it may not have spent enough on pushing its bid.

"Qatar, which has never qualified for the World Cup finals, had a weapon in its abundant financial resources based on oil money," it said.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said that FIFA must have found Japan`s "next-generation World Cup", complete with virtual stadia, lacking.

"There were (FIFA) executives who thought real stadia are more important," it said.