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16 Dec, 2022 13:33

Qatar World Cup is best ever – FIFA

Gianni Infantino has delivered his closing remarks ahead of Sunday’s final
Qatar World Cup is best ever – FIFA

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has claimed that the World Cup in Qatar has been the best iteration of the tournament to date. He was appearing at a press conference ahead of Sunday’s final between Argentina and France.

Infantino also confirmed in his closing remarks that the 2026 World Cup which will be jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada will be expanded to feature 48 teams, although the initially planned format will be revisited. Thirty-two teams have taken part in the tournament in Qatar.

Infantino had previously come under fire in his pre-tournament press conference several weeks ago when he addressed the controversy surrounding the hosting of the World Cup in Qatar – a country which had been vilified in some quarters for what was seen as systemic discrimination against LGBT people, as well as the alleged widespread abuse of migrant workers who helped construct the various stadium infrastructure.

In those comments, Infantino stated that he felt “gay,” “disabled” and “African,” among other things, as he commented upon the negative press associated with Qatar’s human rights record.

On Friday, though, there were no such headline-grabbing statements.

“(There was) unanimous praise from the FIFA council for this World Cup, the unique cohesive power it has shown, thanks to everyone involved – of course Qatar, all the volunteers who work for us and everyone who has contributed to make this World Cup the best World Cup ever,” said Infantino, who arrived at the press conference an hour past the scheduled time.

The reason for the delay, he said, was due to the FIFA council meeting he attended, the results of which he also detailed including amendments to the FIFA World Club Cup as well as the introduction of a female equivalent to the same competition. 

Infantino, who added that he believed the winter hosting of the World Cup this year led to an increase in the standard of football on show, stated that the next tournament in four years’ time will be an expanded version of those which have come before it.

We are really convinced of the growth, we have been approving a 48-team format with 16 groups of three where the top two would move into a knockout phase,” he explained, but also said that the possibility of 12 groups of four remains.

Infantino did, however, address the topic of various teams expressing solidarity with LGBT issues in the early days of the World Cup, and reiterated FIFA’s stance that politics and sport should not co-exist. 

Maybe (fans) feel everyone has their own problems and they just want to spend 90 minutes without having to think about anything else and just enjoy a little moment of pleasure, of joy, or at least of emotion,” he said.

We are a global organization, we do not have to discriminate anyone, based on whatever regime, whatever values they have.

“Everyone is free to express their views and opinions as long as it is in a respectful way, but when it comes to the field of play you have to respect football – 211 football teams (are in FIFA), not 211 heads of state or what have you.”