Fifa chief in Muscat, meets top officials

MUSCAT, March 3 – Fifa president Gianni Infantino was in town on Sunday meeting top government officials of the Sultanate as Fifa was pondering a 48-team 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Assigned by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, HH Sayyid Asaad bin Tareq al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs, Personal Representative of His Majesty the Sultan, received Infantino, at his office. The talks reviewed the cooperation between Fifa and the Sultanate. The meeting was attended by Shaikh Saad bin Mohammed al Saadi, Minister of Sports Affairs, the Secretary General and the Adviser at Sayyid Asaad’s Office, Shaikh Salim bin Said al Wahaibi, Chairman of Oman Football Association (OFA) and the delegation accompanying the guest.
Earlier, the Fifa chief also held talks with Shaikh Saad al Saadi at the Ministry of Sports Affairs.
During the meeting, both sides showed the cooperation between the Sultanate and Fifa and the mechanisms of its development. Also, they discussed the programmes of international cooperation and activating the partnership frameworks between the two sides in order to establish cooperation in the field of football.
Infantino had earlier said that the world football’s governing body is still pondering a 48-team 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“I think it’s worthwhile having a look at the idea and trying (to implement it). Obviously it won’t be easy, but we’ve already made the decision to have 48 teams for 2026, so why not before?” Infantino said at Fifa’s final Executive Football Summit of the season, held in Rome.
Infantino, who will be unopposed for his re-election as the head of Fifa, had floated the possibility of playing matches outside Qatar in order to accommodate the extra teams.
“It will be very difficult to organise it only in Qatar, because of the country’s geography, so we are wondering if we can play a few games out of the country,” Infantino added.
The 2026 World Cup — held in the United States, Mexico and Canada — is already being planned as a 48-team competition.
A decision on whether to increase to participating teams from the existing 32 should be made by June, Infantino had said.
The upcoming Fifa Council meeting on March 14-15 plans to discuss the expansion of the Qatar tournament. A decision could be made at the next Fifa Congress on June 5 in Paris, where all 211 Fifa members will take part.
—With inputs from ONA, Agencies