Fifa President Gianni Infantino is still keen to increase the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams, and has called on other Gulf countries to host matches to spread the tournament beyond Qatar.
Infantino used his speech at the Dubai Sport Conference to repeat his appeal for the region to share hosting duties, which he has previously suggested could help improve relations in the Middle East.
At the 2016 Dubai Sports Conference Infantino announced his proposals for a 48-team World Cup in 2026, which have now been agreed by Fifa, but he now wants to bring the expansion forward.
“If we can increase it to 48 and make the world happy then we should try it and if we can maybe convince neighbouring countries in the Gulf region, who are very close by, to maybe host a few games, this could certainly be very beneficial to the region and the entire world,” Infantino told his audience in Dubai.
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The number of matches involved in a 48-team World Cup would almost certainly require other countries to share hosting duties with Qatar, but the country has been blockaded by many of its neighbours since June 2017.
Infantino continued: “I know, of course, I’ve read the news, there are some tensions in this particular region and that’s up to the respective leaders to deal with them, but maybe it’s easier to talk about a joint football project than to talk about more complicated things.”
The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the organising body of the tournament in Qatar, has agreed to a feasibility study into an expansion to 48 teams, but has denied holding talks to share the tournament with other countries.