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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Tunisia: Rank outsiders
Hamouda Ben Ammar, president of the Tunisia FA
Ben Ammar says hosting the World Cup would boost Tunisia's economy
Tunisia's hopes of winning the right to host the 2010 World Cup are based largely on the success of this year's African Nations Cup.

Tunisia entertained 16 teams in January and February when a spectacular opening ceremony was the highlight of a generally smoothly-run tournament.

The event passed without a major glitch, prompting Tunisian Football Federation president Hamouda Ben Ammar to express his confidence about staging the 2010 World Cup.

"The Nations Cup was a plus for our candidature and I hope that the grand opening ceremony plus the way in which we won the tournament permitted us to make a point," said Ben Ammar.

Tunisia's chances have been stymied, however, by Fifa boss Sepp Blatter's refusal to consider a co-hosting option with neighbours Libya.

There is no official letter from Fifa refusing a joint candidacy
Hamouda Ben Ammar
Despite this, Ben Ammar remains in optimistic mood.

"There is no official letter from Fifa refusing a joint candidacy. The will of Tunisia is to present a joint bid along with Libya.

"The question is whether this will be accepted.

"If we can host it with a neighbour country with the same language, this will be more realistic economically.

"We won't present a sole candidacy. This is a political, economic choice."

Tunisian officials said they had little option but to throw in their lot with their eastern neighbour and major trading partner.

On its own, Tunisia has limited resources. The country was a surprise entry into the 2010 race but initially hoped to make a co-hosting arrangement with Morocco.

Those plans were blocked by Fifa's insistence that the Japan/Korea 2002 experiment was a one-off.

Tunisians fans
Tunisians fans celebrated home success in the Nations Cup
Tunisia does have the advantages of close proximity to Europe, and a developed tourist infrastructure with a myriad of hotels dotting its coastline.

As a regular destination for European tourists, Tunisia is also banking on its safety and security record.

Ben Ammar feels hosting a World Cup will have a morale-boosting effect similar to the feel-good factor which swept through France in 1998.

"If we take the example of France '98, the World Cup effect stimulated their economy," he said.

"So imagine what would it do to less developed countries like us; to employ more people and to accelerate the process of opening Libya to the world."


Key facts about Tunisia

Area: 163,610 square kilometres
Population: 9.7 million
Capital: Tunis (1.8 million inhabitants)
President: Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Languages: Arabic, French
Football Association founded: 1956
Joined Fifa: 1960
Joined Caf: 1960
Clubs: 552
Registered footballers: 84,373.

In Argentina in 1978, Tunisia became the first African side to win a World Cup finals match with a 3-1 victory over Mexico.

Tunisia was the first African country to host a Fifa event, the inaugural world youth championship in 1977 won by the former Soviet Union.

The country has also hosted three Nations Cups over the last four decades, the latest using six stadiums.


SEE ALSO
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South Africa: The frontrunner
07 May 04  |  African
Egypt: A matter of pride
07 May 04  |  African
Morocco: Fourth time lucky?
07 May 04  |  African
Libya: No-hopers?
07 May 04  |  African



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