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Wednesday, January 7, 1998 Published at 17:27 GMT

Sport: Football

World Cup battle hots up
image: [ France hosts this year's World Cup but the battle for the 2006 tournament is hotting up ]
France hosts this year's World Cup but the battle for the 2006 tournament is hotting up

The battle for the 2006 World Cup has hotted up with English football officials rejecting a German offer to make a joint bid.

At the same time, the FIFA boss Joao Havelange appears to have already promised the tournament to Africa.

Dr Havelange, who is at loggerheads with Brazil's Minister of Sport and soccer legend Pele, told a Brazilian newspaper he would personally tell the South African President Nelson Mandela the World Cup would go to Africa.

He told the Jornal do Brasil: ``To reward the progress that has been made, I will tell president Nelson Mandela on January 10th that the 2006 World Cup will be on their continent. Africa has the right to hold its first World Cup."

Power struggle

The move will be seen in international soccer circles as part of Dr Havelange's power struggle with the UEFA president Lennart Johansson.

Mr Johansson is a declared candidate for the FIFA presidency at the next elections in 1998.

The decision to award the 2006 finals will not be taken for another four years and is a matter for the whole of FIFA, not just its president.

Dr Havelange said in 1994 his sixth four-year term as FIFA president, ending in 1998, would be his last.

But his stance has changed since then and he has suggested he may well stand again.

Brazil, South Africa, Morocco and Egypt are expected to challenged England and Germany for the right to host the world's most biggest sporting event.

An FA spokeswoman said she could not comment on Dr Havelange's remarks as she had not heard them directly.

But she said: "He would not be in a position to make such a decision.

"For starters it is a decision for a committee, not just one man. But Dr Havelange is expected to be stepping down in April and the decision will not be made until 2000."

Japan and South Korea are co-hosting the 2002 World Cup - the first time the prestigious tournament has ever been split between two countries.

Snior German sports figures, including former captain and manager Franz Beckenbauer, had been making positive noises about a joint England/Germany bid.

[ image: Davies: 'May the best man win']
Davies: 'May the best man win'
But the English FA has ruled out a joint bid and effectively said: "May the best man win."

FA spokesman David Davies said: "Six months ago we were told we shouldn't bid and if we did bid we wouldn't stand a chance.

"The tone has changed dramatically. That is a tribute to the impact our campaign is making in Germany and around the world."

Mr Davies said: "Our bid is formidable but we also accept there will be other good bids and all we ask is to be accepted on our merits."

He denied a joint England/Germany bid was Europe's best chance at winning the 2006 World Cup against stiff opposition from South Africa and Brazil.

"If the best bid comes from Africa or South America perhaps that is where the World Cup should go but we believe we have the best bid," he said.

Asked if he would prefer Germany to miss out as well if England was overlooked, Mr Davies answered diplomatically: "England are good Europeans. We are good supporters of UEFA and supporters of football worldwide."

World football's governing body, FIFA, also acted quickly to spike the guns of those wanting a joint England/Germany bid.

No point in joint bid

FIFA spokesman Keith Cooper, speaking at the Football Expo '98 exhibition in Singapore, said: "Both England and Germany have good claims and there is no point in them making a bid together."

"As far as FIFA is concerned it is not an option as Japan and South Korea in 2002 was a one-off."

Mr Cooper said: "We are between the devil and the deep blue sea. We are not considering it but if another finals was co-hosted it would mean that every World Cup is co-hosted."

Beckenbauer, who is also at Expo '98 in Singapore, said England and Germany were both wasting money.

He said: "It will split the European vote and South Africa will get the 2006 World Cup if it goes on like this."

Gentlemen's agreement

Germany launched their bid in 1993, three years before England declared itself a candidate to stage the 2006 finals, following the success of Euro 96.

Beckenbauer has several times accused England of reneging on a "gentleman's agreement" to back Germany's bid.

The FA has always denied it ever gave its backing to the German bid and claimed it was just waiting to see how Euro 96 went before making its own bid.

England's campaign chief Alec McGivan said: "We are quite used to competing with them on the playing field and now we are competing in the corridors of football power.

"It may go to penalties. We will have to see."


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