KEIR RADNEDGE in MEXICO CITY —-¬†“Absolutely!” Justino Compean did not pause to draw breath. He had just been asked by this writer whether Mexico would bid to host the 2026 World Cup finals. The federation president¬†did not waste time on diplomatic mumblings about feasibility studies, government assurances or committee considerations.

If the United States football family thinks it has the vote virtually sewn up as a FIFA ‘apology’ for losing 2022 to Qatar then it should think again and remember not-so-distant history. Mexico knows all about acquiring host rights to the World Cup. A 2026 staging would secure the central American nation historic status as the first country to play host three times, after 1970 and 1986.

Justino Compean, president of the Mexican football federation

Compean made his assertion three days after the world football federation’s executive committee had decided that the bid battle to host the 2026 finals should start as soon as administratively possible after FIFA Congress on May 29.

He was among the great and the good of the Mexican game attending the annual nominations convention for the Salon de la Fama del Futbol at the football museum in Pachuca, some 70 miles north of Mexico City.

Confusion revolves around FIFA’s policy on rotation or the lack of it or how and when nations are eligible to bid for the finals.

Ruled in and out

Initially rotation was created, in effect, to send the World Cup finals to South Africa in 2010. A consequence of that was that the 2014 finals were scheduled for South America where only Brazil had the capability, confidence and the will to take up a wide-open ‘offer’.

No particular rules were set in place for the 2018 and 2022 finals but the political practicalities resulted in Europe claiming the one and Asia and CONCACAF the other. Hence Russia and Qatar were chosen, helping established a new assumed rule that no one confederation could stage the finals more than once in every three-tournament cycle.

FIFA’s ‘new executive committee’ on May 30 after congress will probably decide the bid parameters.

On the present basis 2026 would be closed to Europe and Asia which leaves South America, central/north America and Africa. South America will struggle to find a bidder for the centenary World Cup in 2030 while Morocco is the only African nation to have indicated a possible interest.

This leaves Canada, Mexico and the United States . . . the same three contenders which squabbled over the 1986 finals.

Initially 1986 had been allocated to Colombia which withdrew for fear of not being able to cope with the newly-enlarged 24-team event. Canada, the US and Mexico all pursued the vacancy with infamous results. The Americans, their bid steered by Henry Kissinger, took a serious presentation to the executive committee while the Mexicans spent barely 20 minutes with then-president Joao Havelange & Co.

Televisa power

The outcome, to the fury of the Americans, was a host award to Mexico whose bid had been underpinned by the highly-persuasive financial and managerial power of the Televisa group. Mexico thus became the first nation to host the finals twice.

Now Compean wants to make history again with Mexico the first hat-trick host. Compean has ambitions beyond that for 2026. He added: “First we want to host it – then we want to win it.”

Remembering the 1986 bid process, remembering Mexico’s victory over favourites Brazil in the 2012 Olympic finals, the lesson is always the same: Never underestimate El Tri. On or off the pitch.

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