Biennial World Cup opponents ‘afraid of change’ – Fifa boss

Gianni Infantino has been president of football's world governing body Fifa since February 2016

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said opponents of plans to hold the World Cup every two years were “afraid” of change as countries in Africa voiced support for the proposals.

European confederation Uefa and South American counterpart Conmebol do not want to move away from the current four-year cycle, while England’s Premier League is among several domestic leagues to have voiced opposition.

On Friday, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) became the first global confederation to formally back Fifa’s proposal, saying it would fully approve a biennial World Cup if that decision was taken later this year.

“It happens in every sector of life when there are reforms and changes – those who are at the top don’t want anything to change because they are at the top,” Infantino said.

“And they are afraid maybe that if something changes, their leadership position is at risk.

“We understand that and we compliment and applaud them for having been so successful in reaching the top. But at the same time, we cannot close the door, we need to keep the door open, we need to give hope and opportunities.”

A resolution was unanimously approved at Caf’s extraordinary general assembly on Friday in Cairo, where the continent’s FA presidents have gathered.

“If the Fifa study concludes that it is feasible, Caf will fully support hosting the men’s and women’s World Cup every two years,” said a leading Caf official.

Gianni Infantino in Qatar with former players Samuel Eto'o, Marco Matterazzi, Marcel Desailly and Cafu
Gianni Infantino was in Qatar this month with former players Samuel Eto’o, Marco Matterazzi, Marcel Desailly and Cafu to mark the countdown to next year’s World Cup

Infantino, who was present in the Egyptian capital, believes more frequent World Cups will boost participation – with improved chances of qualification.

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Africa will only have five representatives at the men’s 2022 World Cup, with Uefa providing 13 of the 32 participants and South America at least four.

Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle accused Fifa of “killing African football” with the allocation for Qatar, but the tournament is being expanded to 48 teams in 2026, when the tournament will be held in Canada, Mexico and the USA.

Africa is expected to have nine guaranteed spots in 2026 and it could gain an extra place via an inter-continental play-off tournament which will decide the final two qualifiers.

Fifa’s head of global development Arsene Wenger has been promoting a biennial World Cup, which Infantino insisted would offer more opportunities to countries outside the top tier of the world game.

“We need to offer more chances for world football, for African football to shine at the world stage,” the Swiss added.

It is still unclear how Caf – whose flagship Africa Cup of Nations is also played every two years – would be able to stage qualifiers for both biennial World Cup and Nations Cup tournaments into its schedule.

“Afcon will definitely continue,” Caf president Patrice Motsepe said.

“Part of the process is to ensure players do not play more games than they did historically. There will be a fundamental review of the competitions, as well as of the structure that has existed over many years.”

VAR for World Cup play-offs and a Super League for Africa

Meanwhile, Infantino said video assistant referees (VAR) would be used at all play-off matches for the 2022 World Cup.

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The announcement comes after Ghana pipped South Africa to a play-off spot following the award of a controversial penalty in a decisive qualifying match this month.

The incident prompted an official complaint by the South African Football Association to Fifa, which referred the matter to a member of its disciplinary committee.

“We have implemented VAR to help the referees because it is so difficult to be a referee,” Infantino said. “And it’s our response to put the refs in the right conditions to perform at their best.”

Elsewhere at the Caf meeting in Egypt, plans for the introduction of an African Super League were announced, but no further details of the competition were given.

“Today was an endorsement of the clear understanding that this is an important competition which will benefit African football, improve the quality but also generate income – not just for those clubs and countries that are participating but also for those that aren’t participating as well,” Motsepe said.

“It’s something that is exciting and has huge potential.”

Motsepe added the plans would continue to be worked on by Caf’s executive committee, and further information would be provided in due course.

Source: BBC