Thursday, March 30, 2023

Re-elected FIFA president Infantino defends football calendar expansion

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 16 Mar 2023

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Gianni Infantino believes there should be “way more” football as he defended FIFA’s expansion of the World Cup and new Club World Cup proposal.

Infantino was re-elected as FIFA president at the FIFA Congress on Thursday after running unopposed.

FIFA confirmed earlier this week that the 2026 World Cup will consist of 48 teams, up from 32, split into 12 groups of four, while plans were also confirmed for an expanded Club World Cup containing 32 teams.

Speaking at the Congress in Rwanda, Infantino said: “When I hear there is too much football, yes, maybe in some places, but not everywhere. In fact, in most parts of the world there is not enough football played.

“We need way more and not less competitions, we want football to develop worldwide.

“We are discussing organising a women’s Club World Cup and a FIFA World Series in March every two years, when teams are free from playing qualifiers.”

He also later pointed to the English football calendar as well as the Super Cup tournaments in Italian and Spanish football, believing that there is less criticism of others from the media than there is of FIFA, which was a theme of the president’s closing remarks.

Infantino also addressed previous controversial comments he believed had been falsely reported, including at the World Cup where he accused reporters of racism for criticising the host country of Qatar.

“I think I called racists those who were qualifying fans who had different skin colour of fans who were cheering European teams as not real fans, that’s when I used the word ‘racist’, and I stick to that,” he said.

He had also appeared to compare his refusal to give up on becoming FIFA president with Rwandan genocide in his opening remarks on Thursday, but was quick to quash this suggestion when it was put to him by The Athletic’s Matt Slater at the closing press conference.

“I find it really incredible that you can interpret what I say as making an association with one of the most terrible tragedies that happened with anything that happened in my life,” he said.

“I would never make a comparison with a tragedy and my life. What I want to say is that this country is so inspiring for so many people that when we come with our little problems, we should just be a bit more humble about things. That’s all that I said.”

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