DOHA:  FIFA President Gianni Infantino has expressed his continuing optimism about Qatar’s preparations towards hosting the World Cup in – while not committing himself either way in the debate over the number of teams.

Earlier this week deputy general secretary Zvonimir Boban told Turkish media that the number would remain at 32 despite speculation over a short-notice expansion to 48.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino in Doha

Infantino, during a FIFA executive football summits, said: “If we together have the feeling that it is good for football and if we can do it… then we should do it. If not, if it’s not feasible, if it’s not the right, then we will not do it and we will have the fantastic World Cup as we had in Russia, with 32 teams in Qatar.

“So I am very, very happy with the debate, and the discussions, because we discussed how we can make football grow in all over the world and in particular in Asia, in particular in Africa, in particular the Americas, where it’s needed more than ever.”

Work focus

As for the preparations, Infantino, said: “I went to meet the Prime Minister yesterday, to discuss with him the preparations for the World Cup. As I was here a couple of weeks ago at all the sites, the metro, the stadiums… amazing. It will be an amazing World Cup 2022.” .

On the recipe for success, Infantino added: “There is no secret. Work hard, work together, work jointly with Qatar. It will be the first World Cup in the Middle East, in the Gulf region, it’s the first time that an Arab country is organising the World Cup. But it has to be an occasion for the world as well to come and meet the Arab World.

“I think it is very important for the world to discover this part of the world and their passion for football, to discover the people and this was a surprise as well for many, who went to Russia, to discover the people in the region.

“The South Americans or Latin American fans, the Mexicans as well, who came to Russia were amazing. Thousands and thousands. It was a real party in all the cities. Such a fantastic atmosphere. It was absolutely unbelievable – and of course we are looking at how we can make sure that as many Latin American fans, but also from other parts of the world are coming in 2022 to celebrate football here as well.”

Infantino also defended his ‘new’ FIFA emerging after years of scandal and high-level corruption.

He said: “FIFA is now an open organisation and a transparent organisation. An organisation where we want to listen before we decide. An organisation where we give the floor to our members, where we consult, where nobody needs to be scared to express his opinion.

“I think people had legitimate doubts on the institutional work of FIFA, but this is a different story. This is a new FIFA, a FIFA, which is not afraid of having a debate, of having a discussion of implementing reforms, new ideas, and of discussion about what is good for football.” —- QSPC