World Cup in­crease slammed as ‘po­lit­i­cal’

Business Day - - SPORT - Agency Staff Zurich /AFP

Crit­ics of Fifa’s de­ci­sion to ex­pand the World Cup to 48 teams were quick to blast it as a po­lit­i­cally and money-driven ploy that will be detri­men­tal to foot­ball tour­na­ment.

But there was sup­port — par­tic­u­larly in Asia and Africa — for Fifa pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino’s ex­pan­sion plan, unan­i­mously ap­proved by Fifa’s rul­ing coun­cil on Tues­day and to be im­ple­mented at the 2026 World Cup.

In Ger­many, the reign­ing World Cup win­ners, re­ac­tion was mixed.

“I am not happy with the de­ci­sion and would have wished that all the im­por­tant ques­tions about the or­gan­i­sa­tion and the for­mat had been com­pletely re­solved,” said Rein­hard Grindel, pres­i­dent of the Ger­man Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.”

Ger­many team man­ager Oliver Bier­hoff said he could “un­der­stand ev­ery­one who feels the in­crease of the field is a di­lu­tion [in the qual­ity of the tour­na­ment]”.

“Also for me, the in­crease to 48 teams for the big­gest and the most im­por­tant tour­na­ment in the world feels like it’s too much,” he said.

Berti Vogts, who won the 1974 World Cup with Ger­many and went on to coach his coun­try, did not hold back.

“I’m very, very ap­palled, I don’t want to be­lieve it,” he said. “It’s ter­ri­ble. If you want to ruin some­thing, this is the path you should take. I just don’t un­der­stand it.”

Javier Te­bas, pres­i­dent of the Span­ish league, made no at­tempt to hide his dis­gust.

“Fifa is do­ing pol­i­tics. Gianni In­fantino is do­ing pol­i­tics,” he thun­dered.

“To be elected, he promised more coun­tries at the World Cup. He wants to hon­our his elec­toral prom­ises. But the prom­ises made to pro­fes­sional foot­ball, he’s not stick­ing to.”

Foot­ball’s pow­er­ful Euro­pean Club As­so­ci­a­tion also re­it­er­ated its op­po­si­tion, de­scrib­ing the cur­rent 32-team model as “the per­fect for­mula”.

New Fifa Now, a cam­paign group that says the scan­dalplagued gov­ern­ing body needs to re­form, la­belled the ex­pan­sion “a money grab and power grab”. “It will di­lute the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the tour­na­ment and, there­fore, the en­joy­ment of fans,” it said.

A con­fi­den­tial Fifa re­port projects a 48-team tour­na­ment would bring a cash boost of $640m above pro­jected rev­enues for next year’s fi­nals in Rus­sia. In­fantino said Tues­day’s move would al­low more coun­tries to “dream” of qual­i­fy­ing for the World Cup — Africa and Asia could be the big win­ners with a rise in their num­ber of places.

Ja­pan coach Vahid Halil­hodzic said: “A 48-team pro­posal, es­pe­cially one where the group stage trims the field to 32 teams, is clearer and fairer.”

Phillip Chiyangwa, the Zim­babwe Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent, said: “It is good be­cause it is about ac­com­mo­dat­ing more teams from Africa. That is pos­i­tive.”

The Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion also warmly wel­comed the de­ci­sion, with CE Ste­wart Re­gan say­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion would al­low the do­mes­tic game to de­velop with the ex­tra fi­nances that qual­i­fy­ing for the qua­dren­nial foot­ball show­piece would bring.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.