Sports

Infantino: Biennial World Cup will aid smaller nations

SINGAPORE — FIFA president Gianni Infantino stressed how the proposal to hold the World Cup once every two years could be a game changer for smaller nations such as Singapore.

Arriving in Singapore on Sunday, Infantino made his way to Jalan Besar Stadium — the home of Singaporean football — to witness its reopening, which also included the laying of a new artificial playing surface. The upgrade, which cost US$2.5 million, was aided by the FIFA Forward Programme.

The inauguration coincided with continued efforts by the FAS to provide more detailed outlines on its “Unleash The Roar” project, designed to improve football on all levels in Singapore with the target of qualifying for the 2034 World Cup.

By then, a country like Singapore’s prospects would already have been aided by an increase in number of competing teams – with FIFA set to expand the tournament to 48 teams from the current 32 at the 2026 edition.

But Infantino believes holding the competition biennially, rather than the current four years between tournaments, would help even further.

“It’s quite striking indeed that for so many years the World Cup, which is called the ‘World’ Cup, is actually quite an exclusive circle of very few countries,” he said, when asked by ESPN what the change could mean for smaller nations like Singapore.

“It’s not really the ‘World’ Cup. It’s a cup of the best teams, which historically have been the best teams in Europe and South America. The opportunity for others to participate is very low. Of course, increasing the number of teams may change that a little bit but still, when you have to wait four years, it’s a very long time.

“This is a dream for Singapore, to be able to have a chance — a realistic chance — to play the best in the world.”

Later on Sunday evening, Infantino was also present for the opening ceremony of AFF Suzuki Cup 2020.

Despite its status as Southeast Asia’s premier international tournament, the Suzuki Cup has not boasted the best players because it does not fall under a FIFA international window — meaning clubs are not obligated to release players called up.

While the addition of international windows is likely to cause more consternation in club football, Infantino believes a different approach can be taken.

“Rather than more international windows, we should structure it to longer windows,” he added.

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