'This is our time' says Beckham as England scent unlikely victory
Thursday 02 December 2010
David Beckham will lead England's final presentation to Fifa today in the country's bid to host the 2018 World Cup Finals – with the bold declaration that "this is our time" as the gloves came off in the last 24 hours of lobbying.
As the snow descended on Zurich, England's bid team entered the final critical hours of shoring up votes for what they expect to be a battle over three rounds with their main rivals, Russia and Spain/Portugal. The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, waded in yesterday with the accusation that Fifa had been "smeared" – a clear reference to Monday's controversial BBC Panorama documentary.
The chairman of the 2012 London Olympics organising committee, Lord Coe, who is on the board of the 2018 bid, also called for "Oscar performances" from Beckham, David Cameron and Prince William, who will lead the bid's final presentation to Fifa at 10am (CET) today ahead of the official announcement around six hours later.
In a rallying call to the supporters of the English bid, and the 22 Fifa Executive Committee (ExCo) members who will vote, Beckham said England's effort "deserved" to win. "It [football] is what we do in England. We love the game and it is why we want to host the World Cup," he said.
"We have always said that right the way through our presentation and throughout our bid. We don't want to come across as arrogant and I don't think we have. We are a nation of a very successful league. This is our time."
Beckham also played up the importance of the role of Prince William in persuading ExCo members to support the English bid, especially in the two later rounds, when it can pick up votes from eliminated nations. "To have the future king of England turn round and say, 'Have we got your vote?' is kind of a good weapon to have... and he has a wedding coming up."
Last night, Beckham met with Jack Warner, the Trinidadian government minister who controls three votes in Fifa's Concacaf region (North and Central America and the Caribbean) and is crucial to England's hopes. Even now, the race is too close to call, with confusion about whether Putin's decision not to come to Zurich today was a signal the Russians had conceded defeat.
With the English bid using Beckham in a set-piece press conference yesterday in front of the world's media, and Prince William working behind the scenes to convince as many of the ExCo to vote for England, the Russians took a different approach.
Mr Putin issued a statement through the Russian government in which he referred to an "obvious campaign" against Fifa, a veiled reference to the corruption charges against ExCo members made by the BBC.
The Russian Prime Minister said: "They [Fifa] are being smeared. There is an attempt to discredit them. This seems to constitute unfair competition during the run-up to the voting to decide which country will host the World Football Championship [sic] in 2018."
He added that, unlike David Cameron, who returned to Zurich last night having travelled back to London for Prime Minister's Questions, he would not attend today's announcement.
Mr Putin's absence will mean that the star quality is lacking from Russia's presentations. Yesterday, the United States' pitch for the 2022 World Cup Finals bid – which will also be decided today – included a speech in person from former president Bill Clinton, but only a video message from President Barack Obama.
The English presentation will focus on its plans for a "global legacy" as well as emphasising the experience the country has in putting on big football matches. Alongside Cameron, Beckham, Prince William and chief executive Andy Anson will be Eddie Afekafe, 27, who works in Manchester City's community initiatives, as an example of English football's social responsibility.
Fifa's executive panel - and how they may vote
Sepp Blatter (Switzerland, 74)
President. Very little goes on against his wishes. Gave Africa its first World Cup.
Issa Hayatou (Cameroon, 64)
As CAF president, he was blasted for banning Togo from Africa Cup of Nations, twice.
Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus, 64)
Entrepreneur on Uefa's executive committee, a close ally of Michel Platini's.
Jacques Anouma (Cote d'Ivoire, 58)
French industrialist before returning to Côte d'Ivoire to become CAF president.
Franz Beckenbauer (German, 65)
The only man both to captain and manage his country to World Cup wins.
Hany Abo Rida (Egyptian, 57)
Fifa bureaucrat; part of the organising committee of both senior and U-20 World Cups.
Vitaly Mutko (Russian, 51)
Russian sport minister and Putin ally, now responsible for leading 2018 World Cup bid.
Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago, 67)
Controversial CONCACAF representative accused of corruption. Key to the English bid.
Geoff Thompson (English, 64)
Stepped in to chair English bid after the resignation of Lord Triesman.
Senes Erzik (Turkish, 68)
Ex-businessman who brought 2005 Champions League and 2009 UEFA Cup finals to Istanbul.
Chuck Blazer (USA, 65)
Popular, rotund CONCACAF boss, he is close to Jack Warner. Keen to bring 2022 to US again.
Worawi Makudi (Thai, 59)
Head of Thai FA. Brought in Peter Reid and Bryan Robson as national coach.
Junji Ogura (Japanese, 72)
An enthusiast of English football and West Ham fan; an important vote for the English bid.
Julio H Grondona (Argentine, 79)
Long-time head of Argentine football; once said refereeing was "too difficult" for Jews.
Rafael Salguero (Guatemalan, 63)
Likely to be torn between Jack Warner and Conmebol's support of the Iberian bid.
Angel Maria Villar Llona (Spanish, 60)
Former player, now an arch Fifa operator and co-chair of the Iberian 2018 bid.
Ricardo Terra Teixeira (Brazilian, 63)
Brazilian football's boss for more than 20 years, another accused of corruption.
Mohamed Bin Hammam (Qatari, 61)
Powerful networker leading Qatar's 2022 bid. Jostling to replace Blatter as president.
Nicolas Leoz (Paraguayan, 82)
President of Conmebol. Accused by Panorama of receiving bribes.
Chung Mong Joon (Korean Republic, 59)
Billionaire who stood for his country's presidency. May try for Blatter's job in 2011.
Michel D'Hooghe (Belgian, 64)
Head of Fifa's medical committee; has criticised Premier League's "brutal" tackling.
Michel Platini (French, 55)
One of France's football greats, now Uefa president; has led the campaign against video technology.
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