A brave World Cup is dead, but the battle for FIFA is not over

Doha, Qatar – Gianni Infantino entered the bright lights of a packed convention center with the Prince of Qatar on Friday and announced he hopes this year’s World Cup will be the best ever. It was not an extraordinary pride; Infantino has already made it to Russia in 2018, and he will definitely make it again when the tournament goes to North America in 2026. But his glowing smile, and behind his bombastic words, was the setting for a trip to the desert. FIFA president’s recent disappointment.

It was here, in yet another bold, but ultimately unsuccessful, project of Infantino’s hopes for revolutionary change that Soccer’s global governing body finally arrived. Distributing efforts to double the men’s World Cup frequency have ended in every two years, instead of every four years, to feed FIFA’s multi-billion dollar cow.

While Infantino reminded FIFA members, personally meeting for the first time in three years, that the idea of ​​a two-year World Cup was not his – a claim that was technically valid – that he had spent a significant sum of money. And political capital. Try to engineer one of the most important changes in the history of soccer. Selections were made to show support. Experts have been added to push back against critics. But opponents of the concept never formed: By last fall, European and South American football leaders were already threatening to boycott if it came to that conclusion.

In Doha, Infantino finally raised the white flag.

The backdrop, in reference to yet another of his great ideas, followed the earlier mistakes that led to the loss of important constituencies. In 2018, Infantino tried to force Japanese companies through a $ 25 billion deal with SoftBank to sell some of FIFA’s top assets and create new club and national team competition, making the fight so fierce that he and European soccer leaders. do not speak. one year.

In 2019, FIFA used back-end channel efforts to try to expand this year’s World Cup to 48 teams, 32 of them planned. The proposal was given because it would require the host Qatar to share the games with its neighboring countries, including a group. The small bay was then involved in a long economic shutdown of the nation.

Last week, Infantino, 52, couldn’t do enough to say for himself clearly that the two-year World Cup, a source of great urgency over the past year, was not going to happen. Instead, he merely allowed that it was now time to “seek agreement and compromise.”

FIFA, he told the delegates, needs new competition, generating the kind of revenue that FIFA needs to fulfill its commitment to its 211-member federation. No president of FIFA has been as generous as Infantino, and his follow-up is suddenly important: he announced on Thursday that he will be re-elected next year.

Plans for future events are already taking shape. Annual competitions are planned for boys and girls, with the Youth event of 48 teams for boys and the girls team of 24 teams unlikely to withstand any opposition. And opposing the Expanded Club World Cup every four years – another Infantino priority – is now surprisingly quiet. A 24-team club was handed over to China for the World Cup 2021 but was terminated due to the outbreak of the coronary virus and then completely removed as Infantino focused its energy on the mutual World Cup.

Now, once again engaging in positive negotiations with European officials, the Club World Cup – possibly even more extended, to 32 teams – is likely to be agreed in the next few months. The new event is set to begin in 2025 soon. Or it may be late by 2027 that FIFA, in the face of flexible European opposition, should seek alternative national team competition for another year’s World Cup. Some regional organizations, including Kankafa, the responsible football team in North and Central America, are still pushing for a bigger new national team.

“I think there is a desire for change, and I think the rest of the world really wants change,” said Victor Montagliani, president of Concacaf.

Montagliani suggested that a revamped and expanded version of the Mod Bald Confederations Cup, a widely-held tournament held as a test event in the host countries of the World Cup, could be an option, as the World Nations A league that can feed into its new quarterback event for the regional. Winner – An idea made by some European languages ​​to have a two-year World Cup “from the back door.”

At the heart of much controversy, though, has been a major battle: the war of supremacy between European football and FIFA. European officials are angered by what they perceive to be efforts by Infantino, the former UFA general secretary, to try to reduce Europe in an effort to boost its popularity worldwide, and their fatigue in Qatar last week. The signs were clear. Many members of the UEFA delegation, including their president, Alexander Safferin, for example, were notable for their absence at Friday’s World Cup draw, an event that took place just one day after participating in the FIFA Congress.

Infantino has talked openly about breaking the European road to success – FIFA appeared to encourage efforts to find the European Super League before departing from the project last year as it collapsed – and retains key allies. Who share their concerns about its supremacy.

“What should we do? Just roll our fingers and send the players and the capital to Europe? Montagliani, Canada. “It can’t be. I am sorry. The fact is, they have a lot of honest duty to the rest of the world, and I think it’s time for us all to get around the table.

The now defunct two-year World Cup campaign brings Infantino to other alliances, including his use of famous former players and coaches to compel him to issue. The efforts were led by Arsene Wenger, a former Arsenal coach who traveled around the world supporting the benefits of competition, and a FIFA-funded group of former international stars, also members of the FIFA Legends Program, who also presented glowing reviews. Did. (The current players were strongly opposed to the idea.)

At the same time, opinion polls and survey and public relations consultants were tasked with changing the minds of skeptical news media and cautious fan groups. In the end, though, the effort only created disruption and conflict. And it doesn’t look cheap: FIFA increased its communication costs last week in its latest financial disclosure. They raised nearly $ 10 million – 62 percent – compared to last year.

Now, as he looks forward and promises his re-election, some are still waiting, still hoping for the next big idea for Infiniti, which can send cash to his constituents and make a change. As inheriting what he wants.

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