Infantino brings vision of new FIFA to Asia

Thu Apr 28, 2016 9:28am EDT
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By Do-gyun Kim and Juarawee Kittisilpa

SEOUL/BANGKOK (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino dangled the carrot of more World Cup spots for Asia during a visit to Seoul and Bangkok, pressing his case for an enlarged 40-team tournament.

Infantino, who met with sponsors Hyundai Motor Group in South Korea on Wednesday before traveling to Thailand on Thursday, said his visit was aimed at rebuilding trust with corporate partners and presenting his vision of a "new FIFA".

World soccer's scandal-hit governing body is in the midst of the worst crisis in its 112-year history, with more than 40 individuals and entities, including many former FIFA officials, charged with corruption-related offences in the United States.

Infantino, elected in February to replace the disgraced Sepp Blatter, told reporters in Seoul that adding eight more teams to the World Cup from 2026 was "perfectly justified".

"Soccer is not only Europe and South America. Soccer is the world," he said.

"I'm not a dictator so I can't impose anything but I'm trying to convince everyone. I believe we have to increase the number of teams ... because we have to be more inclusive."

Asia has four automatic spots at the World Cup, with a fifth up for grabs in an inter-confederation playoff, and Infantino said that number could rise to at least six under an expanded format.

FIFA has struggled to find new sponsors since its crisis erupted and Asia's financial muscle could see the region play a bigger role.   Continued...

FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, April 27, 2016.  News1/Park Se-yeon/via REUTERS