FIFA president Gianni Infantino has continued in Dubai to promote the possibility of the UAE hosting its first World Cup matches during 2022.
Infantino, 48, also called on the Arabian Gulf’s leaders to show “big wisdom and big heart”, so that a tense political dispute does not derail plans to make the Qatar tournament an inaugural 48-team competition.
The Swiss administrator’s desire for an expanded event in three years’ time has become a key part of his platform since succeeding controversial predecessor Sepp Blatter in February 2016. For this vision to become a reality, however, of expediting the unanimous agreement for 2026, a significant percentage of games would need to be held outside the geographically small host country’s borders.
Such a stance has been seriously complicated by a continued blockade of Qatar by several neighbours, that include the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, since June 2017 because of its alleged support for terrorism. But speaking at the 13th Dubai International Sports Conference at Madinat Jumeirah on Wednesday, Infantino reiterated his calls for a “very beneficial” rethink.
He said: “The discussion is not anymore is it good or bad, but can we do it earlier, if we think it’s a good thing and have it for 2026 then why shouldn’t we try and have it four years before? That’s what we are analysing, whether it is possible to have 48 teams in 2022.
“It will take place in a neighbouring country in Qatar with 32 teams. Obviously, it will be quite a challenge to say it, being diplomatically correct, to have all 48 teams in Qatar.
“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, very close by, to host maybe a few games, this could certainly be very beneficial for the region and the entire world I think.
“I know, of course I’ve read the news, there are some tensions in this particular region and that’s up to 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.
Gianni Infantino, #FIFA President, reviewed the effects of football on the society during the main session of #DubaiISC13 titled More Than a Game, where he presented his ideas & visions regarding the development of football globally, moderated by Jeff Slack pic.twitter.com/9kwTnYdm3p— Dubai Sports Council (@DubaiSC) January 2, 2019
“If we can bring a positive message to the world about what football can do, then we should give it a try. If we don’t manage to make it happen, then we will have a great World Cup in Qatar with 32 teams – but 48 would be fantastic.
“It would take big wisdom and big heart of everyone in this region – it’s a unique chance for the whole world to discover this part of the world, the first World Cup in the Arab world.
“The Arab world is sometimes in headlines for the wrong reasons similar to [2018 hosts] Russia, but this is an opportunity for the world to see how welcoming this part of the world is and how great an experience it can be to celebrate football here.”
The UAE has extensive experience of staging premier football events. It will put on a second Asian Cup from January 5-February 1, plus the 2017 and 2018 Club World Cups – won by Real Madrid – were successfully held in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
A Dubai-based football team is jetting off to India this week to take part in the First International Grassroot Cup 2018.
CF Football Academy [CFFA], one of the leading football academies in the UAE, has announced its under-12 team is taking part in the tournament, which started in Kozhikode on Boxing Day and runs until December 30.
The team, which has excelled on the international stage, including stellar performances at the Great Wall of China Cup in Beijing, the Donosti Cup in Spain and Gothia Cup in Shenyang, is marking its first participation at the International Grassroot Cup.
The CFFA U12 team registered consistent wins in the Junior Football League 2018 in Dubai, claiming the Winners’ Cup, and also reaching the Dubai Super Cup finals.
“CF Football Academy’s strategic approach, efforts and dedication of its certified multinational coaches, has borne fruit in its success,” said Julian Spadigam, chairman of CFFA.
“The unstinted support of the parents is a significant factor that pushed the teams to reach the pinnacle. We are confident of a good show in India.
“Football is more than just a game, and CFFA is more than just a training academy, it’s a holistic incubator which nurtures and develops on all fronts.”
Established in 2010, CFFA brings together a wealth of contemporary coaching strategies and philosophies in its push for excellence.
With an ethos that focuses on theoretical and practical sessions, CFFA looks to instill its boys and girls with tactical acumen and footballing intelligence built on a foundation of hard work and discipline.
Hosts Al Ain roared into the Club World Cup’s semi-finals with a superb 3-0 triumph against CAF Champions League holders Esperance de Tunis.
The Boss were unrecognisable from the listless rabble that required penalties and the closing of a 3-0 deficit to New Zealand amateurs Team Wellington on Wednesday.
Fantastic goals from Mohamed Ahmed, Hussein El Shahat and Bandar Al Ahbabi did the damage at a raucous Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
South America heavyweights River Plate now follow on Tuesday. As for their vanquished opponents, an unwelcome fifth-place showdown with Mexico’s Guadalajara beckons.
Setting a platform that others wasted – Little came off for shellshocked Esperance in the Garden City.
The frustration for the Tunisian powerhouse will come from the fact that a platform was set for them by the performances of pivoting midfielders Fousseny Coulibaly and Franck Kom.
It was not their fault that celebrated attackers such as Youcef Belaili and Anice Badri could barely string a move together.
A new Pharaoh emerges: There were heroes all across the pitch for Al Ain as they saved their best performance of an often-stuttering season for the Club World Cup’s quarter-finals.
Stand-in centre-back Mohammed Fayez defied expectations, specialist signing Tongo Doumbia blew off more rung rust, returning UAE playmaker Rayan Yaslam came up with two assists and roaming UAE right-back Al Ahbabi would not stop running.
But they were all cast into the shade by the wonderful El Shahat. His ceaseless drive was on show within the first minute, when he popped up to hit the woodwork.
The Egypt international’s wonderful skill set then witnessed control at pace, a beguiling check-back and calibrated curl for the second.
El Shahat’s mid-season arrival was pivotal to Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup success, plus he keeps showing that life exists beyond departed favourite son Omar Abdulrahman.
For the second-successive edition, the UAE have delivered deserving last-four entrants.
Where do you start?: Few observers expected Esperance to win a ticket to the UAE when they came up against Cairo kings Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League decider, even more so when the first leg produced a 3-1 loss.
But Moine Chaabani’s men – just like in the controversial semi-finals – defied expectations to prevail. But in the Garden City, they were largely hopeless.
Their defensive line was doglegged, attackers regularly wasted strong positions and lone striker Taha Yassine Khenissi was so isolated he needed to send out an S.O.S. message for help.
Aerial worries: Copa Libertadores winners River Plate now await the Boss.
A scout with only a rudimentary eye would have seen that Al Ain can be unsettled in the air. Coulibaly, in both halves, should have done much better from set-pieces, while Khenissi’s sole moment in the spotlight saw a header hit the post. Lucas Pratto – belated Libertadores-decider aside – has been starved of goals.
The sometime Argentina centre forward should fancy his chances on Tuesday.
1st min CHANCE: Caio digs out a cross that partner El Shahat meets with his head. His effort deflects, agonisingly, onto the post off visiting skipper Khalil Chemmam.
2nd min GOAL: Al Ain’s tactic to crowd Tunisia goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa pays off in style as Mohamed Ahmed beats him to a Yaslam corner, flicking in to cause an eruption at a buoyant Hazza.
16th min GOAL: What. A. Goal. Japan defender Tsukasa Shiotani wins the ball on the edge of Al Ain’s penalty box and within 10 seconds the ball is nestling in the net. At the end of a rapier counter, El Shahat’s check-back wrong-footed four Esperance defenders, prior to his beautiful curled shot.
24th min CHANCE: Khenissi heads onto the woodwork as UAE stalwart Ismail Ahmed lays prone.
60th min GOAL: Caio’s expert manipulation of the ball in tight spaces allows him to cross to Al Ahbabi, who converts into an open goal. Cue more bedlam.
TACTICAL TALKING POINT
No ice Bergs
Sweden centre forward Berg’s continued issues with a fever meant a change of shape, and approach, for the Boss.
A switch to an unfamiliar 4-4-2 formation thrust nominal wingers El Shahat and Caio into equally unfamiliar positions up top.
For all the predatory brilliance of their Sweden No9, his fine leveller against Team Wellington made it 14 goals in 12 matches this term, his statuesque presence can slow down play.
Against Esperance, the Boss raced across the Hazza turf at lightning pace. The Tunisians dominated possession (59/41 per cent) and attempts (18/12), but this fell perfectly for Al Ain’s opportunistic gameplan.
They countered at lightning pace and pressed, without mercy, from the front. This unsettled opponents who, surely, expected a more-sedate run-out.
A pair of effervescent false 9s created the correct solution for coach Zoran Mamic.
Esperance – D: Esperance will want to erase this debacle from their minds, swiftly as possible. But the frustration caused from this limp display will live long in the memory. A dead rubber against Guadalajara is nothing to look forward to.
Al Ain – A: The UAE’s most-decorated club delivered one of the greatest displays of their existence – quite a way to mark a 50th anniversary. El Shahat was peerless and Al Ahbabi an exemplar of why they won. Repeat this physical feat against River Plate, and you never know…