March 15 – Africa’s most powerful football official finally received his visa at the 11th hour to attend FIFA’s all-important Council meeting in Miami amid reports his region would back calls for an expanded World Cup in Qatar.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad, a key ally of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, was initially refused a visa to travel to the US to attend the crucial Council meetings. But according to local reports, he has now been allowed into the country even though he missed the opening session of the summit.
A three-month visa was reportedly issued by the U.S. embassy in Cairo with a start date of March 14.
Meantime, Ahmad’s deputy said Africa would “definitely support” expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams with the Continent’s quota of teams set to double if it happens.
“CAF will definitely support the vision of (FIFA president) Gianni Infantino if he wants this,” Nigeria’s Amaju Pinnick told the BBC.
“Why wait until 2026 if we can achieve it now? If you do it now, there will be more money and more participating teams. In Africa we are going to have another 4.5 (places), which makes more sense to us – rather than just going with five nations. That’s why Africa will always support Infantino.”
A final decision on the possible expansion is expected to be delayed until the FIFA Congress in June as FIFA grapples with how to share it in the light of the Saudi-led diplomatic boycott of the host nation.
But Pinnick says adding 16 more teams in 2022 would build bridges in the region. “Make it like a Middle Eastern World Cup, and what does that do? It heals the wounds of politics. Football heals wounds where other diplomatic moves fail, so they should capitalise on that. I’ve done my own research and spoken to a lot of colleagues – not just in Africa, but in Concacaf, in Conmebol and some even in Europe.”
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