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FIFA Considers Sharing World Cup 2022 with Gulf Countries

FIFA Considers Sharing World Cup 2022 with Gulf Countries

Thursday, 3 January, 2019 - 10:00
FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks at the Dubai International Sports Conference (Reuters)
Dubai- Asharq Al-Awsat
FIFA should, if possible, increase the size of the soccer World Cup in Qatar in 2022 to 48 from 32 teams, said FIFA President Gianni Infantino, with neighboring Gulf countries hosting the matches.

Infantino said the move would be "beneficial" to the region and the world and could overcome the diplomatic crisis since Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama announced severing ties with Doha in June 2017.

"If we can accommodate some of the neighboring countries in the Gulf region that are very close by to host a few games in the World Cup, this could be very beneficial for the region and the entire world," Infantino noted.

FIFA voted in 2017 to increase the size of the tournament from 32 to 48 teams starting from 2026 in Canada, United States, and Mexico, but, since then, Infantino has been mulling the possibility of bringing the change forward to 2022.

The increase in the number of teams, if approved, is expected to impose new challenges for the hosting country in terms of its ability to receive additional numbers of fans.

Qatar, which was chosen to host 2022’s World Cup in 2010, has since prepared for the event with 32 teams.

FIFA’s President has previously hinted that he was in contact with other countries in the region to host matches or teams despite the political crisis between many Gulf states and Qatar.

Speaking at the Dubai International Sports Conference on Wednesday, Infantino said it would be “difficult” to stage an expanded tournament in Qatar alone.

“The World Cup will take place in Qatar with 32 teams. Obviously, if we can increase it to 48 teams and make the world happy we should try it.”

“There are tensions in this particular region, and it’s up to their respective leaders to deal with that but maybe it’s easier to talk about a joint football project than more complicated things,” he said.

“If it can help all the people in the Gulf and all the countries in the world develop football and bring a positive message to the world about football, then you should give it a try,” Infantino further noted.

He said it is a unique opportunity since it is the first time the World Cup is hosted in the Middle East region, adding that if it didn’t work, the World Cup will be played by 32 teams.

FIFA is expected to decide whether or not to increase the number of teams at the World Cup in a meeting that will be held in Miami in March.

Qatar said it would not take a final decision on the tournament expansion until it has seen details of a feasibility study from FIFA.

The study is expected to discuss aspects of scheduling, the number of required venues, training sites, and how many games per day would be played under an expanded format.

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