BSP-05 ‘Not a done deal’ – Qatar wary over 48-team World Cup

325

ZCZC

BSP-05

FBL-ASIA-AFC-WC-2022-QAT-FIFA-INFANTINO

‘Not a done deal’ – Qatar wary over 48-team World Cup

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Qatar stressed that the 2022 World
Cup remains at 32 teams as FIFA chief Gianni Infantino piled on pressure to
expand the tournament to 48 and share it with other Gulf countries.

Speaking to AFP at the Asian Football Confederation Congress, head
organiser Nasser Al-Khater said Qatar was still planning for 32 and that
studies about adding another 16 teams were just an “assessment”.

“There’s a feasibility study on the countries that could possibly host. So
together with FIFA we’re looking into those possibilities,” Khater said in
Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

“So that’s where we are now. It’s still open as an idea but it’s not a done
deal for it to be a 48-team World Cup.”

Although Qatar has said it is open to expanding, Khater was at pains to
underline that “the status quo is that it’s still a 32-team World Cup,
everything after that is an assessment”.

After winning the right to host a 32-team World Cup in 2010, in a bidding
process mired in bribery allegations, the Qataris are coming under sustained
pressure to switch to 48.

Oman and Kuwait are being studied as possible co-hosts as Qatar remains
under a diplomatic and transport blockade from other Gulf neighbours, who
accuse it of supporting terrorism — a charge Doha denies.

Khater said there was no chance of UAE — who have signalled they would
like to hold games — or fellow blockaders Saudi Arabia co-hosting the World
Cup, given the current impasse.

“Under the current environment I don’t think it’s a possibility,” he said,
adding that studies were underway about the feasibility of Oman and Kuwait
hosting games.

“We’ve got to take into consideration the capabilities as they stand today
but also what could be done over the next three years,” he said.

Despite the tight timeline, Infantino has made clear he wants 48 teams in
2022 and he unsubtly hammered home the message in his address to the Asian
congress.

The Swiss-Italian FIFA president, who may put the matter to the world
body’s congress in June, said 90 percent of football associations support the
move.

“Sharing the games with a few of the neighbouring countries is of course an
option as well to make it a true World Cup for the world and for the whole
Gulf region,” he said.

“Something to discuss, something to think about, something that we are
working on together with Qatar and together with all of you.

“And of course it’s going to be a nice achievement if the first World Cup
of 48 teams would be played in Asia.”

BSS/AFP/GMR/0826 hrs