Soccer

AFC presidential hopeful backs larger 2022 World Cup

Kyodo

Mohammed Khalfan Al-Romaithi, a candidate for the Asian Football Confederation presidency, said Monday he supports an expanded 48-team field for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Speaking to Kyodo News in Tokyo, Al-Romaithi of the United Arab Emirates said that if he wins the April election he would happily support FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s proposal to increase the number of teams at the next World Cup from 32 to 48.

“I would like an expansion,” he said. “I would be very happy, because this would give us eight slots and give us more chance to show ourselves to the world at the World Cup.”

“If you look at all the tournament football around the world, if you look at the World Cup, Europe, Copa America, they all started with a small number of teams and increased and increased and increased, like the Asian Cup.”

Although Qatar would be unable to host that large a tournament, Al-Romaithi said Kuwait and Oman appear ready to host the extra group stage matches with an additional four stadiums.

Al-Romaithi, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, has issued a manifesto laying out his policies that center on investment, participation and independence of the AFC’s 47 member associations. He has vowed to support each association with $2 million a year from new sponsorship deals he expects to conclude.

In addition to Al-Romaithi, Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, the incumbent, and Qatar’s Saoud Al-Mohannadi have entered the race. Japan Football Association President Kozo Tashima, who met with Al-Romaithi earlier in the day, has announced that Japan intends to support the incumbent.

While Al-Romaithi supported Japan’s right to vote for the candidate of its choice, he praised Tashima’s contributions in Asian football.

“I would love that he stays the head of the technical committee because I know he understands our manifesto very well,” Al-Romaithi said. “Of course, I would like to see him representing us very well in the FIFA council.”