Ahead of the FIFA president’s re-election today, the expert questions whether Europe is out of touch with the world game?

In just a few hours, the media will confirm the re-election of Gianni Infantino, 52, as president of FIFA at its congress in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Swiss football boss was booed countless times during the 2022 World Cup: in stadiums, where his face appeared on screens and around the world, especially when he supported hosts Qatar’s human rights record.

One would assume that the man is universally unpopular – DBU in Denmark is one of several football associations that openly oppose him – but no other candidates have come forward to take part in this morning’s vote.

They know history is not on their side: a sitting FIFA president has not been defeated since 1974!

Since 1974: rarely overboard, but the numbers never lie
At the time, the president of the Brazilian sports federation, João Havelange, set up the apple cart to replace Stanley Rous, the long-serving British president of FIFA.

Rous was very much a traditionalist. During his tenure, the World Cup did not grow in size, remaining at 16 teams, and the inclusion of teams from most continents – Africa, Asia and North America – remained limited (in 1962 only one; in 1974 only two!)

Havelange beat him because he promised to make football a truly global sport. In the build-up to the vote, he visited 89 countries on his campaign trail – often accompanied by Pele.

Candidates for FIFA presidency ignore the “one nation, one vote” system at their peril, and Havelange’s eventual successor Sepp Blatter knew this only too well when he introduced the FIFA Goal Project in 1999, which allocated millions to football’s smaller nations – funding that all too often found its way into the pockets of corrupt officials.

Greedy or just leveling the playing field?
Infantino has taken more of a Havelange approach than Blatter – it says a lot about the organization that it has only had three leaders in 49 years! – choosing to increase the size of the tournament to appeal to football’s smaller nations.

In the entire history of the tournament, only 80 countries have enjoyed a taste of participating. Havelange raised the number of teams from 16 to 32 during his presidency, and now Infantino has increased it to 48.

This means that the final four teams will end up playing eight times and that the total number of games will increase from 64 to 104. Players associations, leagues and clubs – the employers of the players who pay the bulk of their wages – have widely condemned the News. And it’s not exactly good news for people who don’t like football either!

But you try to tell people, or football organizations, in Zambia, Uzbekistan, Finland and Guatemala. Forever on the fringes of qualification, they suddenly have a much better chance of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.

The European attitude fails to see the bigger picture
To be fair, Finland, together with Norway and Sweden, has the same position as Denmark! And yesterday they were joined by Germany, so the resistance is increasing – slowly.

But it’s just a European rebellion, according to expert Henrik Liniger, and Infantino will not worry too much, he told DRas support from smaller nations is “as valuable as major European nations such as Germany, France and England”.

All too often the European media take an attitude that forgets that football is a global game: e.g. describes the plans to hold the World Cup every two years as absurd, or to hold the tournament in the European winter – like the one in Qatar.

The former is “an initiative that many countries outside of Europe think is a good idea because their continental championship may not be as strong as a European Championship,” Liniger pointed out.

“I’m absolutely sure that the Argentinians think it was very nice to be able to celebrate winning the World Cup in the Argentine summer.”

READ MORE: Denmark left to rue what could have been the luckiest draw of them all

Source: The Nordic Page

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