Zola backs World Cup bid

Gianfranco Zola has thrown his weight behind England's bid to host the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The West Ham United manager filmed a special interview that was used as part of the Football Association's bid launch at Wembley Stadium. Among those also taking part were England manager Fabio Capello, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, FA Chairman, Lord Triesman, Sir Bobby Charlton, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. The FA's President HRH Prince William also sent a special message of support.

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Zola said: "If you think that I came when I was 30 [to England] and I played for seven years in Chelsea until I was 37 and I wasn't planning to stay that long. That tells you a lot about my appreciation about the place. The stadiums are fantastic. The crowd is even better and the quality of football right now you are talking about is the best in Europe.

"It is just a wonderful place to play football," he added, as he stood pitch-side at the Boleyn Ground and showed the film crew around the famous old stadium he has called home since taking charge of the club back in September. "I think it would be a great place to play a World Cup over here. I believe there all the perfect conditions to be the place."

Other nations who have expressed interest in hosting world football's showpiece event in 2018 or 2022 are Australia, Belgium-Netherlands (joint bid), Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Portugal-Spain (joint bid), Russia, USA, Qatar (2022 only) and South Korea (2022 only).

Zola was not the only West Ham representative backing the bid, with Sir Geoff Hurst also having his say on the nation's chances. The former striker believes there is every chance that a new generation of England internationals will get the chance to experience what he did when he represented the country on home soil back in 1966.

"I think we have a realistic chance; we are a major football nation, everything is in place, we have the expertise, the stadiums, the infrastructure, the teams, the supporters, it's safer than it's ever been and we're ready now," said Sir Geoff, who naturally had to relive again his memories of scoring a hat-trick in the 4-2 final win against West Germany.

"We saw how much things have changed when we hosted the European Championship in 1996 and it will be even bigger in 2018. We have to have the whole nation behind us to get the World Cup here as it will be a national event - not just for football people. In 1966 there were a lot of people who were not into football before the finals, but they were fans for life by the time it had finished."

FIFA will confirm the hosts of both World Cups in December 2010.

Gianfranco Zola