Less than a week after landing the top job in world football, newly-elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino has outlined his intention to make a ‘big difference’ in the sport.
Infantino replaced Sepp Blatter after holding out Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa in last week’s FIFA presidential election in Zurich.
The 45-year-old has set his sights on making changes at the governing body, with expanding the number of teams in the World Cup from 32 to 40 high on his agenda.
“It’s not a secret that I believe in increasing the number of teams in the World Cup. 40 teams, eight more teams, but this also means more representation,” Infantino said.
“40 teams is only 19 percent of FIFA’s membership, so it’s not so much compared to the continental confederation final tournaments which are between 30 and 100 percent of the teams participating, so 19 percent is not too much.
“We give eight more countries, eight more teams the possibility to participate, but many more teams the possibility to dream of participating, to play the qualifiers in a very solid way. And this will boost the development of football as well, then also the popularity of football in many more countries. If we are serious about developing the game we must also think about the popularity of football in many more countries”
Introducing specific programmes for each of the 209 member associations ranks among the Swiss-Italian’s priorities, while he also wants to dispel the perception of FIFA officials as being viewed as politicians and encouraged players to be more involved in the development of the game.
“I’ve been travelling a lot. I’ve been visiting each continent, many countries, and I’ve seen with my own eyes what the needs are and I think we can – and we have to – do a lot. And we can do a lot with actually very little,” he said.
“But what we have to do in particular is to invest in our tailor-made programmes for each country because the needs are not the same in Bhutan or in Madagascar, in Switzerland or in Paraguay. The needs are of course completely different and we have to make sure that we target each country, each of the 209 FIFA member associations specifically and we help them to develop football in accordance with the needs that they have.
“If we do this, we will make a big, big, big difference in football development all over the world.”
Infantino added: “If we remember, all of us, that at the origin, we are all football fans, then I think the game will become much, much better.
“It’s also important that the players are involved because they are the stars of football. They have to be involved in the decision-making process and we need to listen to the players.
“We need to listen to their voices and their experience to involve them in the activities that we’ll do. Not only in the activities that we’ll do or not only when we take decisions, but more generally for all of the football development activities, for social activities, because we’ve an important task there in terms of social responsibility.”
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