Beckham launches 2018 World Cup bid

LONDON: David Beckham launched England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup by insisting no other country can match their passion for the globe's biggest sporting event.

The England midfielder was at Wembley on Monday as the English Football Association began their attempt to convince FIFA, the world game's governing body, that they should stage the four-yearly tournament.

England hosted their only World Cup in 1966 when Sir Alf Ramsey's team won the event, but the nation's appetite for football is so strong that Beckham believes it is only right the competition should finally return 52 years after that historic victory.

"To have the World Cup in your own country is the dream of any player. I know first hand the passion of our fans and they would provide an incredible atmosphere at every game," said the former England captain who holds the record for most appearances by an England outfield player.

"There's no bigger support than our fans. There are full stadiums everywhere. Some of the biggest players in the world, (Zinedine) Zidane and Ronaldo, ask me what it's like to play in England. They love that passion.

"The passion doesn't just stop at Premier League level. It's from the grass-roots and the amateur leagues right through every league.

"When we stage big competitions it shows around the country how excited people get. Our country is renowed for getting excited by big events. I don't think any country in the world can compete with us for that.

"A World Cup in England would inspire a generation of younger players and capture the imagination of everyone."

Beckham was joined at the English national stadium by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, current England team-mate Wayne Rooney, as well as Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst, who both played in the 1966 World Cup final victory over West Germany.

Manchester United striker Rooney said: "I know how much the crowd can lift you here and how much the country would get behind us. It would be a dream come true for any England player.

"Hopefully I'll still be playing at that time. I'll be 32 but you look at some of the players at Manchester United like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. They are the perfect example to me to keep myself fit."

England, who failed to win the race to stage the 2006 World Cup, face competition from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the United States and joint bids from Belgium and the Netherlands and Portugal and Spain.

FIFA's 24-man executive committee will deliver their verdict in December 2010 and the FA's bid leaders are well aware that they must win over delegates in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.

FA chairman Lord Triesman said: "Our job in the next 19 months is clear; we need to put together the strongest bid possible. We believe that England can stage a wonderful event," Triesman said.

"We are determined that England 2018 will assist the development of football globally and meet FIFA's aspirations that the World Cup leaves a legacy of positive change."

England has already secured the 2012 Olympic Games and British Prime Minister Brown is keen to land another prestigious event.

"This Government is fully committed to this bid," Brown said. "It would be an absolute privilege to host this fantastic sporting event and I know this country, with its first-class stadiums and tremendous passion for football, would host an incredible tournament.

"It's fitting that we are launching the bid in England, the home of football, and at Wembley - the greatest stadium in the world."

Prince William, President of the English FA, added: "Hosting the World Cup would give the whole nation the opportunity to demonstrate our generous hospitality to teams and fans from all over the world."