Gianni Infantino has failed on his quest to make the Middle East a safer place. The current FIFA President has pushed for a 48-team World Cup in 2022 which will be held in Qatar. However, Infantino couldn't get his approval, which means that the event will continue with 32 teams. Infantino was hoping to get countries to share matches, thus boosting the ability to have more teams playing around the region. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are at daggers drawn with Qatar since June 2017. The countries have also locked off Qatar by land so travelling in the region will be indeed fraught once fans start to trickle in in 2022. FIFA's own management has become aware that the inherent difficulties to appeasing the conflict could be disruptive for the event: “Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.” The reasons not to include countries such as Saudi Arabia have been many. The country recently executed a spate of prisoners by beheading and the lack of cooperation between the now hostile countries would be a major spanner in the works for any cross-country World Cup. Qatar hasn't spare much effort in establishing its new venues either. The country has invested several billions so far to build state-of-the-art stadiums and arenas, which are definitely going to be a good draw for the crowds in 2022.
Qatar Can’t Host 48 Teams on Its Own
The main issue with Qatar hosting a 48-team event is the lack оf facilities that can welcome all teams and matches. Even though Qatar is prepared to host the teams, the country doesn't have the technical time to truly build up momentum and secure everything an event of such magnitude would need. Qatar has also expressed a readiness to explore more ambitious goals, with the Qatar Committee Releasing the following statement:
“Qatar had always been open to the idea of an expanded tournament in 2022 had a viable operating model been found and had all parties concluded that an expanded 48-team edition was in the best interest of football and Qatar as the host nation. A joint analysis, in this respect, concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on Qatar, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option.
With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud.”
Today, the country finds itself at even bigger crossroads which is not easy to overcome. With the diplomatic coldsnap ongoing, Qatar is definitely not happy with the developments in the region. The United States are also becoming more aggressive. This political and regional uncertainty is definitely not good for football in the region and Infantino's goal to heal the region is ever more elusive by the day.
Healing the Middle East? What About Russia?
It's a bold statement to make. Infantino's power brokering hasn't been exactly helpful. Infantino had high hopes for Russia's Mondial too, but Russia has been acting belligerent despite playing host. Political brokering is no easy task and Infantino would be wrong to think that he can fix things by offering countries to host events. In other words, while Infantino's sentiment seems noble, the executions are far from it. Not only that, but FIFA has become a vastly corrupt structure leading to suicides and big projects being syphoned off by corrupt cronies. Things definitely haven't been easy for the world's governing body and their corruption is still not fully gone, insiders say. With Qatar being such a fraught destination, a lot could go wrong in 2022 when people will want to attend the next World Cup.