Africa World Cup slots doubled
Windhoek – FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called on Africa to prime itself for the 2026 World Cup, when as many as 10 national teams from the continent could participate in the global soccer showpiece.
Africa presently has five slots at the men’s World Cup, and there has been a strong lobby to increase this. Confederations such as UEFA in Europe have as many as 13 World Cup representatives.
At the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) AGM in Johannesburg, South Africa this week, the world football boss also stressed the importance of unity among member associations, regional organisations and continental confederations.
He made the remarks ahead of a meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Cape Town.
“COSAFA is very important in this part of the world, and as part of the FIFA Forward programme, in which we introduced a strong support to the zonal organisations. Nevertheless we can and want to do more so we need to be united and work together in a true spirit of co-operation,” he said.
Infantino highlighted that Africa should prepare optimally for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will see the number of African teams participating in the competition increased from five to nine or ten.
“Doubling the number of teams participating in the World Cup is crucial because it can have an impact on youth and the entire football community as it gives many more countries a concrete chance to qualify. This can trigger investments from governments and the private sector, which can help the member associations further develop football in their respective countries.
“In order for African teams not only to participate, but to shine at a world stage, the work has to start now. Africa should be united to get back what it has given to global football, and this can only happen if we all work together.”
In his meeting with President Ramaphosa, Infantino discussed the importance of football as a vehicle for social development. The meeting also referenced last weekend’s engagement with President Ramaphosa’s successor as African Union Chair, President Félix Tshisekedi of the DRC, which paved way for the imminent launch of a Pan-African schools football tournament.
President Ramaphosa and Infantino also talked about the unifying power of football, and emphasised South Africa’s importance as hub for football in the region. One of FIFA’s four Regional Development Offices in Africa is located in South Africa.