By Samindra Kunti
November 1 – With a decision that will reshape football’s pinnacle event, FIFA and its president Gianni Infantino officially confirmed that the 2030 finals will be played in six countries on three continents with opening matches to be held in South America to celebrate the tournament’s centenary as the deadline for the submission of official bid letters of interest passed with no challengers.
The decision paved the way for Saudi Arabia to stage the finals in 2034, who will also be unchallenged in their bid preparation by other federations, but are more likely to be challenged by media worldwide.
Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay will host a single opening match on home soil, branded as ‘Centenary Celebration Matches’, before the remainder of the 2030 tournament moves to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
“In 2030, we will have a unique global footprint, three continents – Africa, Europe and South America – six countries – Argentina, Morocco, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain and Uruguay – welcoming and uniting the world while celebrating together the beautiful game, the centenary and the FIFA World Cup,” said Infantino in a statement.
The decision, unanimously approved by the FIFA Council, fuses two rival bids, allowing every nation to host matches, and is the ultimate political compromise that keeps everyone on board, with three confederations satisfied that they will be a part of the 2030 World Cup.
UEFA had long maintained that it was time for the World Cup to return to Europe after Russia were the last UEFA hosts in 2018, Morocco at long last landed hosting rights after multiple failed bids in the past, and South America gets a party to mark the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay in 1930.
“The centennial World Cup could not be far from South America, where everything began,” said Alejandro Dominguez, president of Conmebol. “The 2030 World Cup will be played in three continents.”
It was Dominguez who broke the news on X, formerly known as Twitter, before FIFA made an official announcement. “We believed big,” posted Dominguez. “The 2030 Centennial World Cup begins where it all began.”
But the tournament will be a logistical nightmare and dynamites FIFA’s sustainability claims.
The 2026 World Cup will be played across North America and Mexico in a 48-team match, but with the 2030 model FIFA will take co-hosting to a new extreme.
Infantino himself has never demonstrated to be keen on sustainability. He was a keen private jet flyer during the COVID-19 pandemic and during the recent Women’s World Cup he jetted around the Pacific to clock up more than 40,000 kilometers. Then FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura also had a private jet at her disposal during the tournament.
Under Infantino, the World Cup’s identity is constantly under siege and question marks over the primacy of the World Cup will become inevitable as the tournament becomes too big for its own good and the quality of play on the pitch obviously deteriorates.
Football Supporters Europe (FSE) expressed their dismay with the six-country tournament.
“FIFA continues its cycle of destruction against the greatest tournament on earth,” FSE said in a statement. “Horrendous for supporters, disregards the environment and rolls the red carpet out to a host for 2034 with an appalling human rights record.”
The crux of FIFA’s 2030 arrangement however is that Saudi Arabia has the bidding field to itself to land the 2034 finals.
In FIFA’s statement announcing the 2030 World Cup plans, the governing body said that only member associations from Asia and Oceania could bid in 2034.
The FIFA president, who has repeatedly attacked the press for attempting to hold him to account, did not hold a press conference following the decision which in some ways mirrored the deal-making in 2010, a catalyst for FIFAGate.
Infantino has long claimed that the ‘new FIFA’ is no longer toxic, but the latest decision was once again accompanied by an even deeper lack of transparency and debate (for the award of 2034) than the cataclysmic awards of the two World Cups in 2010. In 2010 there was a cacophony of noise and debate around the bidding from both within FIFA and the media.
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