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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Mar 30, 2009

Kissinger joins board for U.S. World Cup bid

NEW YORK -- Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger joined the board of U.S. organizers bidding to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

Kissinger was chairman of the advisory committee of the successful bid in 1988 for the 1994 World Cup and became vice chairman of the organizing committee. He previously was part of the failed U.S. bid for the 1986 tournament, when FIFA said it would be moved from Colombia. Mexico wound up hosting.

"I don't think we have a huge chance in 2018. I think it will probably go to Europe," Kissinger said Monday. "We'll certainly contest for it. And just as '86 guaranteed that we got it in 94, so I think bidding for 2018 will give us a great chance for 2022."

FIFA's executive committee will vote on the 2018 and 2022 hosts in December 2010, and many think the 2018 vote will come down to England or Spain. Kissinger thinks Russia, which has never hosted soccer's showcase, will get strong consideration.

Next year's tournament is in South Africa, and Brazil will stage the World Cup in 2014.

"I think Europe will probably get it in 2018," he said. "Our best shot is '22, but I hope we can get it in '18. But it's hard to believe Europe will let it go three times in a row."

Kissinger received FIFA's order of merit in 1996, with the governing body saying his "support for football from the high-profile position of his public office has contributed greatly to raising its visibility and credibility in the United States."

Kissinger views President Barack Obama as an asset in the campaign for the tournament, saying he believes the new administration is viewed favorably around the world.

"We know that Obama is very interested in sports," Kissinger said. "I think as we go along we should be able to get a hearing at the White House, get him to say something favorable about us."

Kissinger grew up in Fuerth, Germany, and still pays attention to Germany's national team, die Deutsche Nationalmannschaft.

"I follow them and I wish them well, but I don't feel about them like I do about the Yankees," he said.

He also roots for Juventus, because he is friendly with the Agnelli ownership group, and Manchester United and Arsenal

"I wrote an article once ... about how the national teams reflect the national character, how various style of the game are peculiar to the nation and it's sort of fascinating to see that," he said. "Nobody would mistake a Brazilian team for a German team. The French teams are always the most elegant in Europe. There's a definite style."

Yes, for a diplomat, he has pointed opinions.

"I don't like the Italian style as much," he opined, "but say it in a kind way."

Kissinger favors video technology in soccer, but only in the limited case to determine where a ball has crossed the goal line.

He's been associated with soccer in the United States since Pele was on the Cosmos in the late 1970s, then was joined by Franz Beckenbauer.

"In the early days, when the Cosmos were playing, I sort of had delusions that it was completive, and I asked Beckenbauer once what he thought would happen if they played in Europe, and he said they'd be in the upper part of the second division. But I think we're getting better," he said.

"I'd like it to become a major sport. It's got its tough going to find the time when it gets primary attention. There's always some major sport overlapping with Major League Soccer. I think it's progressing. What we need is maybe something like the Giants-Colts," he said, referring to the famous 1958 overtime NFL championship.

His skills almost came into play when an Agnelli sister wanted to promote a charity event. Kissinger's task was to put together France's Zinedine Zidane with Italy's Marco Materazzi, the player the French star head-butted in the 2006 World Cup final, leading to an ejection.

But the event never came together.

"Diplomacy failed," Kissinger said.

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