Gianni Infantino will increase the number of teams competing at the World Cup from 32 to 40, if he is elected as the Fifa president.
The Uefa secretary general and right-hand man of Michel Platini, was discussing his manifesto after becoming a surprise, late candidate for the Fifa presidency.
Infantino is regarded as an interim, substitute candidate for the suspended Platini and is expected to withdraw from the race to succeed Sepp Blatter, if the Uefa president is cleared of any wrongdoing by Fifa’s ethics committee.
In the meantime, he is setting out his vision for football, should he be elected Fifa president.
“I believe in expanding the World Cup based on the experience we had in Europe with the Euros,” Infantino said. “Look at qualifiers now where some teams who have never qualified did and some teams which have always qualified didn’t make it. So it created a completely new dynamic in the qualification. It created new enthusiasm. If you are serious about developing football it must involve more associations in the best football event in the world: The World Cup.”
It would be too soon to increase the number of teams to 40 in Russia in 2018 and it could be difficult for Qatar in 2022, since the plan is to squeeze the 64 games into 28 days to cope, but Infantino is dangling the carrot for future tournaments.
Although the bulk of his support will come from withion Uefa, Infantino insists his appeal extends beyond Europe.
“I don’t have a European vision,” he said. “I have a vision for football.”
Other than the suspended Platini, there are five other candidates standing for the presidency: the Asian football leader Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, the former South African politician Tokyo Sexwale, the Liberian federation president Musa Bility and the former Fifa official Jérôme Champagne.
“It’s not a question about other candidates, it’s a question about Europe being present and making its voice heard,” Infantino said. “When you have a function in football like mine with responsibilities you have to assume responsibility when times are difficult, to put yourself forward in order to try to change this and bring messages forward.”
Though drawing on the same support as Platuni, Infantino is keen to distinguish his bid from that of his boss.
“I hope all of them he will agree with but maybe on some of them we are not exactly the same – some of the priorities are maybe not exactly the same,” he said. “I have been working with Michel Platini for the last nine years. We share many views and many ideas. It’s obvious we have the same philosophy on many things but I am a candidate on my own, I will have ideas on my own.”
He also insisted he would not stand aside for Platini if he wins his appeal.
“I take it seriously which means if I am elected on 26 February in case Michel cannot run, then I will be the Fifa president and I will act as Fifa president,” Infantino said. “There is no stepping down or whatever.”