KUWAIT CITY: FIFA president Gianni Infantino met Kuwait’s emir on Sunday, state media said, amid reports the Gulf state is in talks to host matches to support Qatar during the 2022 World Cup.
Kuwaiti ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed Al-Sabah and the head of the country’s sports federation met with Infantino on a low-profile visit that began Saturday, the official KUNA news agency said.
Infantino also met with the speaker of Kuwait’s National Assembly, Marzuk al-Ghanem, and officials of the national football federation, KUNA said.
While no details of the visit were made public, local media has reported that Infantino’s hope is to convince Kuwait to host some matches if the 2022 Qatar World Cup is expanded.
FIFA has decided to increase the number of teams in the World Cup from 32 to 48 come 2026 in the United States, Canada and Mexico — but last month voted in favour of the increase being implemented starting in Qatar, which would likely require that neighbouring countries host some games.
A final decision on the Qatar proposal, strongly supported by Infantino, is expected at a FIFA meeting in Paris in June.
The increase in the number of teams would automatically raise the number of both games and fans, presenting new logistical challenges to Qatar.
Further complicating the matter is the Gulf diplomatic crisis, a nearly two-year-old diplomatic freeze between Qatar and its rivals, led by Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut all ties with Doha in June 2017, accusing Qatar of supporting Iran and Islamist groups.
Qatar denies the charges and says Saudi and its allies aim to incite government change in the emirate, the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas.
Gulf states Kuwait and Oman have not taken sides in the crisis. Oman announced last week it was “not ready” to host matches in the 2022 cup.
Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2019