ANAM ARSALAN in DOHA —- FIFA president Gianni Infantino has praised the efforts being made by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy in the build-up towards its hosting of the 2022 World Cup finals.
Infantino, addressing the media on the sidelines of a FIFA Asian executive football summit, said: “What I saw yesterday and today during a presentation at the meeting room and the reports that I have been receiving, I can say that a lot has been done and great progress has been made.
“We are very confident that everything will be ready. Of course, this does not mean that we can now sit down and wait, as a lot remains to be done. But the work is going ahead at full speed in accordance with the commitment made by the Qatar Government and Supreme Committee.”
Touching on the legacy issue, he said: “I had mentioned this during the meeting after the presentation by the Supreme Committee and I would like to state here too.
“It is something that isn’t emphasised enough and that has to do with legacy. It’s not just about building stadiums or infrastructure to the World Cup, but creating a legacy that is being linked to football and that is important.”
Qatar could be the last World Cup for many years to be a single-country. From 2026 the finals will be expanded from 32 to 48 teams and the FIFA Council has already approved the likely prospect of co-hosting.
In 2026 this is likely to be United States with Canada and/or Mexico but it would also encourage South America where Uruguay wants to share in the staring of a centenary World Cup in 2030.
Infantino said: “For the World Cup 2026 we are starting a bidding process and we will encourage co-hosts because there are only a few countries in the world, which can comply with FIFA’s regulations for hosting big events.
“Also we want to avoid wasting the infrastructure that is being built for one particular event. So we chose countries that can jointly host the meets.”
Infantino defended the expansion decision, saying: “The decision has been taken based on discussion and analysis and more than one year of debate. Many are happy, some are less happy, I still struggle to find negatives in the idea.
“I think we can include 16 more countries in it for truly global games. In fact, I saw yesterday a nice presentation from the president of the Tanzanian football association, who said that their strategic plan is to qualify for the 2026 World Cup, and for that, they have started investing now in football projects.
“So this creates investment, this creates participation.”
The new format consists of 48-teams divided into 16 groups of three teams each, with two teams qualifying from each group, to form a round of 32 knockout stage.
He also expressed confidence that the sort of fan violence sparked by Russian hooligans at Euro 2016 would not be repeated at the 2018 World Cup, saying: “I feel confident about the Russian authorities . . . with the right kind of facilities and ease of travel to the venue, such incidents can be curbed.”
Infantino also stressed a need for more cooperation between FIFA member nations as was being developed through such regional football summits.
He said: “The reason and purpose of the summit is including the member associations into the life of FIFA. They needed a forum, a voice, an agenda. And here at the Summit, at least we did get some good feedback.
“Now we have 2011 presidents of associations, general secretaries of associations, who are running the football in their countries and it is important to listen to them and it is important that they speak to each other as well. Such summits definitely help in that exchange, the learning, and being able to build bridges.”
He explained: “The focus of development of football in Tanzania is not the same as that in Sweden, same as between Bahrain or Denmark or Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Everyone is developing football in a different way and it is important for FIFA to bring them together. We can’t run the world from an office in Zurich and know everything about everyone and impose everything on everyone. That’s not the way football is run.”