Stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are set to offer their backing to a joint bid from Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay to host the 2030 centenary World Cup, bid organisers told AFP.
“Messi will join us in this initiative, and Suarez certainly,” Fernando Marin, the joint bid co-ordinator, told AFP on Monday.
“We told him (Messi) about our aims, and he feels it’s doable.”
Argentina’s minister of sport Carlos Mac Alister said: “it’s important to know we have the support” of such high-profile players as Argentina’s five-time world player of the year Messi and Uruguay striker Suarez.
“In 2030, we won’t be there anymore, Messi will.
“He showed great desire to help us. He will surely be the flag-bearer for the World Cup.”
The very first World Cup in 1930 was held in Uruguay and won by the hosts, who beat Argentina 4-2 in a memorable final at the Centenary Stadium in Montevideo.
Paraguay were also one of the 13 participants, but the World Cup has grown immeasurably since then and now features 32 teams, although that number will rise to 48 at the 2026 World Cup.
In 1930 there were 18 matches, but that will become 80 in a 48-team tournament, making it far more difficult for a single nation to host alone.
Before then the World Cup will be held in Russia later this year and then Qatar in 2022. The bid city for the 2026 edition has yet to be decided.
The joint bid has the support of the heads of state of the three countries, all of whom were president of a football club before leading their country.
Argentina’s Mauricio Macri used to head Boca Juniors, the country’s most successful club; Tabare Vazquez was in charge at Uruguay’s Atletico Progresso; while Paraguayan Horacio Cartes was once the boss at Club Libertad.
The joint bid would see Argentina host eight of the 12 groups in the opening phase, with Uruguay and Paraguay given two each.
The initial idea centred around a joint Uruguay-Argentina bid, which was announced in July.
Paraguay were added to the bid in October with the backing of the South American federation, CONMEBOL.
Uruguay and Argentina have both hosted the World Cup before, winning on home soil in 1930 and 1978 respectively.
They have also both won the global football showpiece a second time — in 1950 for Uruguay and 1986 for a Diego Maradona-led Argentina.
No other potential candidates have expressed an interest in hosting the 2030 tournament, but China are rumoured to be preparing their candidature.
© Agence France-Presse