FIFA explores Kuwait, Oman as 2022 World Cup co-hosts
CGTN

FIFA continues the push to expand the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams, considering Kuwait and Oman becoming co-hosts with Qatar, which remains in the middle of a complicated diplomatic standoff with several Arab neighbors.

Qatar's infrastructure is already stretched for the Middle East's first World Cup, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants to add 16 more countries to the planned 32-team tournament. That's too many games for the eight stadiums spread over just a 30-mile radius in Qatar, a tiny nation with just 2.7 million people, most of them foreign workers.

Infantino has been lobbying for an expanded 2022 tournament for months, even suggesting some games in Saudi Arabia.

FIFA is now looking at Kuwait and Oman, a person with knowledge of the situation told the AP on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential. Infantino visited Kuwait last month and Oman on Sunday.

The principle of expanding the World Cup has already been agreed by FIFA members, with 48 teams planned for the 2026 World Cup being jointly hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Infantino first announced in April that he wanted to fast-track the expansion to 2022, even though Qatar couldn't cope with 16 more games.

The World Cup is already operating in a curtailed 28-day period from November 21 to December 18, 2022, after it was shifted from the usual June-July slot to avoid Qatar's fierce summer heat. Qatar is building just eight stadiums for a 64-game tournament. Twelve would be necessary for 48 teams playing 80 games.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (L) inspects Al Wakrah Stadium, which is under construction within the preparations of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, during his visit in Doha, Qatar on October 23, 2018. /VCG Photo

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (L) inspects Al Wakrah Stadium, which is under construction within the preparations of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, during his visit in Doha, Qatar on October 23, 2018. /VCG Photo

Kuwait has the 65,000-capacity Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium to host World Cup games, but there is a complete ban on alcohol in the nation. Qatar has an exemption that allows foreigners to drink alcohol, but it has yet to confirm how available it will be in stadiums. Budweiser is a major FIFA sponsor.

Oman's biggest stadium has a capacity of 34,000, which is short of FIFA's minimum requirement of 40,000 seats.

The decision to award the tournament to Qatar in a 2010 vote forced FIFA to deal with concerns about labor conditions for migrant workers, many building the stadiums. 

The bidding process for the 2026 World Cup was the first where FIFA assessed the human rights records of countries. Infantino told AP last year that he would have to weigh up the human rights records of any countries added to the 2022 World Cup hosting.

FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani wants the governing body's ruling council to decide whether to expand to 48 teams at a meeting in Florida next week.

"I support it," Montagliani, who leads the CONCACAF confederation, told the AP. "I start in a positive way — unless there is something that makes me change my mind — i.e. Qatar doesn't want it — or the analysis is negative then I would have to rethink my positive stance.

"I would think we have to have some sort of resolution in Miami because World Cup qualifying starts in some parts of the world this year."

FIFA's committee for organizing competitions confirmed on Monday that Asia will kick off qualifying in June, even though the number of slots of the finals is yet to be decided.

"The same reason we expanded to 48 teams for 2026," Montagliani said, "it inspires hope, giving more countries inspiration."

Read more:

Asian Cup 2019: A historic title sees Qatar bursting

Qatar climb 38 places in FIFA rankings after Asian Cup triumph

Source(s): AP