Bengaluru/Doha, March 16: With FIFA reportedly open to the idea of expanding the 2022 FIFA World Cup from the existing 32 teams to 48, hosts Qatar are exploring the possibility of co-hosting the tournament with Middle East neighbours, though the task is easier said than done.
Qatar, for their part, has agreed to co-operate with the game's global governing body for such a joint venture in the larger interest of the sport, while at the same time re-asserting that they will go ahead with the present preparation to host a 32-team showpiece.
Official Statement from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy on the ongoing discussions around the possible expansion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar pic.twitter.com/Y8vexGRJXd— Qatar Football Association 🇶🇦 (@QFA_EN) March 15, 2019
A joint venture has many obstacles and in case of Qatar, it does not end within the football pitch. It may be recalled that Qatar has been at loggerheads with Gulf neighbours like Saudi Arabia and the UAE since they imposed economic blockade on them in June, 2017, accusing the 2022 World Cup hosts of abetting terrorism, an allegation which the country has vehemently denied.
That leaves Qatar with Oman and Kuwait as the potential partners although neither countries have stadiums with full infrastructure to host a global tournament like the FIFA World Cup.
AP Source: FIFA is exploring Oman and Kuwait becoming co-hosts of the 2022 World Cup with Qatar if the field is expanded to 48 teams.— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) March 6, 2019
More from @robharris >> https://t.co/ZmbbaTKpfj pic.twitter.com/9puL9H3Cz1
"Definitely (the blockade) is a big, big challenge, there is no doubt it's a big obstacle, but we'll have to wait and see what comes out," Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL), the organisation responsible for hosting the FIFA 2022 World Cup was quoted as saying in local media.
Al Thawadi was unable to name a benefit to Qatar of hosting an expanded tournament and said his country had to consent to any changes.
"It's a joint decision between FIFA and Qatar and obviously we're looking at it in terms of what makes sense, what is workable," he said.
Should any proposal be agreed upon by FIFA and the SCDL, the vote on the final decision will be taken by the FIFA Congress in Paris on June 5.
But as FIFA noted in their own statement: "In the meantime, preparation for a 32-team tournament continues normally in Qatar."
The Qatar 2022 World Cup is scheduled to be held from November 21 to December 18 as in a break from tradition, the tournament was controversially pushed back to a winter window because of the scorching summer temperatures in the tiny Middle East country.
Qatar is building only eight stadiums for the one-month tournament and are promising to deliver the completed venues two years before the kick off.
One is already completed -- the Khalifa International Stadium in the capital Doha which reopened in May last year after renovations, including the installation of a cooling system that can take the temperature in the venue down to the mid-teens.