(ATR) The main voice of the Organizing Committee for Qatar 2022, Hassan Al Thawadi, tells Around the Rings in Miami that his country is “open” to the FIFA proposal to expand the number of teams to 48 as long as it is “the best for all”.

Khalifa International Stadium in Doha is one of eight venues for 2022 (SC)
Al Thawadi, general secretary of the Supreme Committee for Organization and Legacy, responsible for the infrastructure projects needed for the 2022 World Cup, spoke in Miami this weekend with FIFA president Gianni Infantino around the meeting of the Governing Board of the world football entity.

An internal feasibility study supporting the expansion from 32 to 48 teams, which is being strongly pushed by Infantino, was given full backing by the FIFA Council in Miami.

Al Thawadi, who played a key role in the Qatar candidature process, said that his country and FIFA have continued to work together to discuss the idea, taking into account its implications for football worldwide, for the tournament itself and for Qatar as the host.

“Any decision will be made in consultation between FIFA and Qatar and with its agreement,” the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) said in a statement on Friday, coinciding with the statements of its delegate in Miami.

The statement recalled that Infantino said at the press conference that the decision to raise the number of teams participating in the 2022 World Cup “is not easy.” 

“We should study this matter carefully and in cooperation with Qatar.” Infantino said.

” We, as host country, are continuing our preparations to host the first edition of the World Cup in the Arab World, according to the current system of 32 teams,” the SC added.

A final decision will now be taken in Paris on June 6 after FIFA and Qatar jointly submit the names of potential co-host nations to the governing body’s Congress.

“We came to conclusion, yes it’s feasible to move from 32 to 48 teams at the World Cup provided certain conditions are met,” said Infantino during his press conference. 

“Since we decided in January 2017 that we should increase teams in 2026, and following a request from the 10 South American associations whether it is feasible to do this for 2022.

“We have the duty to look into it, 90 percent are in favor of an increase but it’s not as easy as that. We have to analyze matters carefully and we are working closely with Qatar,” added FIFA President.

Hassan Al Thawadi meets reporters in Miami (ATR)”We had a favorable first discussion, but there are details that we need to discuss,” said Al Thawadi.

These “details” could be related to probable political and logistical obstacles.

Without mentioning their names to those allegedly proposed countries, Al Thawadi told reporters that “it was still early” to address the issue because first “you have to study the technical, economic and legal feasibility”.

A complex political panorama in the Gulf affects the chances of co-hosting the World Cup.

In June 2017, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt broke political, commercial and transport relations with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting violent groups in the region.  Doha denies the claim.

Kuwait and Oman have remained neutral in the dispute. And although politically they present a more favorable option, neither has more than one stadium that could currently meet the requirements for hosting a World Cup match.

For the 2026 tournament in North America, 60 games will be held in the United States with Canada and Mexico getting 10 games each.

A FIFA document said an expanded 2022 tournament would use the same format planned for 2026.

Qatar will have eight stadiums for 64 matches. Twelve will be needed for 48 teams and 80 matches.

“We’re going to see what’s best for football, for FIFA, Qatar and the World Cup,” said Al Thawadi, who declined to be pressured by FIFA.

“Any decision we adopt cannot be worse for us,” he cautioned.

Al Thawadi said he did not know the reason for the discrediting campaigns against Qatar’s candidacy.

“From the first day we worked with pride and honor,” he told reporters in the hotel lobby of the FIFA Council meeting.

“The World Cup will change thoughts and opinions,” he said.

“Qatar 2022 will be a catalyst to improve things and life,” he added.

“The first World Cup in the Arab world is going to leave a legacy not only on the pitch but beyond,” he insisted.

“I swear one thing: it’s going to be the best World Cup ever.”

Reported by Miguel Hernandez in Miami. For general comments or questions, click here.
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