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Oct 8, 2009

England recruit foreign stars

England have unveiled a host of foreign football talent to help promote their World Cup 2018 bid in the wake of criticism from FIFA executive member Jack Warner.

• Warner unimpressed by England bid

CONCACAF president Warner said on Wednesday that England's bid needed to exploit its heavyweight support and on Thursday England presented a squad of past and present overseas players as international ambassadors for the bid.

The list includes Warner's Trinidad and Tobago compatriot Kenwyne Jones, Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure, Paraguay's Roque Santa Cruz, Nigeria's Nwankwo Kanu, Argentina's 1978 World Cup winners Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, Italy's Gianfranco Zola and South Africa's Lucas Radebe.

"We feel each and every individual will be a tremendous asset to England 2018," bid chief executive Andy Anson told a Leaders in Football conference at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge.

England players like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and former greats Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer have already given the bid their backing.

The FA said each ambassador would offer support to England 2018 at home and abroad, including use of their images in promotional materials and in meetings with key figures.

FA chairman Lord Triesman acknowledged Warner's recent comments but pointed out that a successful England bid would have an impact on regions around the world, particularly in the developing nations whose players were familiar faces in the Premier League.

In a dig at some rivals, whose national leagues continue to suffer incidents of racism, he emphasised racial harmony and said the new ambassadors would demonstrate that point.

"Because of England's diversity and integration, players from every nation enjoy a home from home welcome. They are the best witnesses when they describe their enjoyment of playing in English grounds," he said. "They will help us take our message across the world and I hope help us bring the World Cup here in 2018."

"They are able to point out, because we faced our demons in the past, that in England you can play your football without racial abuse and that's not true everywhere. And you can also do it with the assurance that when we see signs of any re-emergence of the problem we will stamp on it, we will take it on head-on," he added.

Outlining the reasons why England should win the battle to host the 2018 World Cup finals, Triesman said: ''Let me also be clear that the last decade has been one of great innovators, involving numerous people from dozens of countries. As a result, football has enjoyed enormous grown both commercially and emotionally. I am proud that England has been one of the main areas of growth. The sport becomes ever more popular in a place which has achieved commercial benefits. It is this growth and passion that tells me we should be able to stage a great FIFA World cup in 2018 if we earn the right to do so.

"To start with, we have wonderful facilities. New or completely modernised stadia and training grounds with open-pitch side stands that generate a very special atmosphere. Grounds packed with passionate fans who welcome players from every continent on earth and embrace them as new family members.

"Football in this country, particularly the Premier League clubs, has enjoyed global success. It gives us as significant attributes as we promote our bid, a showcase for the strength of our game.

"Familiarity with English football has let to a huge global fan base with a growing appetite, successful leagues that each billions of TV viewers every week, players who are household names not just in Chelsea or Chester but also in Cairo, Cairns and California.

"A key part of our bid is our determination to achieve the highest possible levels of technical excellence. This is the most prestigious sporting event in the world. It must be treated as such. We are working hard on this. FIFA demands and expects excellence. FIFA is right. Our aim is to exceed these expectations."

Triesman also said England's last failed bid had been rightly criticised in the past for "hectoring people about our right to host the World Cup".

"I think it was as crude as it was ineffective," Triesman said of that approach. "So we've spent what must seem a long, quiet period listening and learning from the global football family."

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