FATIMA MARTINEZ / AIPS** in AMMAN: FIFA Council is about to consider the shape of future World Cups which will include whether the number of teams should be increased from 32 up to as many as 48 countries.
But Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, former world federation vice-president and head of the Jordan Football Association, believes the focus should be on improving the qualifying system rather than necessarily expanding the finals.
The newly-enlarged governing council meets on Thursday and Friday in Zurich while, in Jordan – host of a historic U17 Women’s World Cup – Prince Ali has suggested a competitive distribution of finals slots is the answer to political manoeuvring.
He told AIPS Young Reporters: “I think ideas for now are one thing but they have to make sense and I don’t think increasing the finals to whatever number is based on reality.”
He dismissed one suggestion that additional teams in the finals might play only one game each in an initial knockout round.
Prince Ali, who twice failed in attempts to win the FIFA presidency, said: “To be honest if you really want to look at a World Cup you have to have a real World Cup qualifying competition so, in other words, Europe and Asia and Africa don’t have however many slots fixed in advance.
“Instead you could have a real World Cup qualifying tournaent and then, if all the teams come from one continent, fine – they have earned the right to be there on the pitch rather than around the table.
“That was the qualifying tournament itself is also exciting and you can benefit a lot from that.”
Prince Ali, considering the Middle East’s forthcoming first World Cup in Qatar in 2022, had no doubt about the Gulf state’s capability to stage the finals, after the controversy over the bidding process.
He said: “For our region it would be good to this football celebration. Can they pull it off? Sure. The major issues were about how it was done, in the first place in choosing two host countries, Russia and Qatar, at the same time. It was wrong.”
Qatar remains under critical focus over the condition of construction workers.
Prince Ali said: “Looking forward, FIFA has to hold a host accountable. It is a FIFA tournament so certain things, like workers’ right and so on, need to be addressed. Really, they are challenged to improve their own society.”