Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | ePaper

FIFA keen on expanding World Cup to 48 teams for Qatar 2022

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AP, Buenos Aires :
FIFA President Gianni Infantino is keen on hastening the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams for the 2022 tournament in Qatar, a move that might require the tiny Gulf nation to share games in the region.
The governing body will now study if Qatar can alone cope with the additional logistical challenges of hosting 16 more teams and 16 more games than originally planned for the Middle East's first World Cup.
The jump from 32 to 48 teams was originally only due to apply from the 2026 tournament under plans Infantino secured approval for last year. But he is highly receptive to a request received Thursday from south American confederation CONMEBOL and its 10-member associations to accelerate the expansion plans.
"It seems to me a very interesting idea," Infantino said after attending a CONMEBOL meeting in Buenos Aires. "Of course we have to study the feasibility of this proposal. If it's possible, if it is feasible, if the others agree too, because it is not a decision that only the president of FIFA or CONMEBOL make ... of course we are going to study it.
"And I really think it is something very interesting. We have to study it seriously and if it is possible, why not?"
An early expansion would allow FIFA to generate more revenue to replenish the coffers hit by corruption scandals and potentially strengthen Infantino's position among the 211 membership before seeking re-election next year.
"I firmly believe as president of FIFA in an enlargement of participating national teams because I am convinced that it is good for the development of football all over the world," Infantino said. "That is why we have proposed it and that is why we have agreed to it since 2026."
Qatar currently has plans to build eight stadiums, whereas bidders for the 48-team 2026 tournament have been told they need 12 venues. Rather than further straining the requirements on Qatar, one option to accommodate the leap from 64 to 80 would be to share games in the Gulf.
Qatar won the FIFA vote in 2010 with a vision of the World Cup benefiting the Middle East but with all the games in the small desert nation. Hopes of a unifying tournament for the region were eroded when Qatar's neighbors, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, cut diplomatic ties last year.
Kuwait, which retains relations with Qatar, could be a co-host after Infantino worked to ensure the country's suspension from FIFA was lifted in December.
Qatar World Cup organizing committee secretary general Hassan al-Thawadi has not ruled out the possibility of sharing matches with neighbors.  

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