Abu Dhabi: United Arab Emirates sports chief Mohammad Khalfan Al Rumaithi believes the Gulf nation would welcome an approach to co-host the 2022 World Cup if its deep political rift with Qatar is resolved.
Fifa President Gianni Infantino has backed a proposal to expand the next World Cup from 32 to 48 teams and has suggested that neighbouring countries could host matches.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, however, launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in June 2017. The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.
“I think the right way is to solve the problem,” Rumaithi, who on Monday stood down from Abu Dhabi’s Executive Council to focus on a bid to run Asian football, said in an interview on Tuesday. “Bring back the relationships, be brothers again like we were, and then we can support.”
“If the problem is solved I think the UAE would welcome the World Cup here, a group or two for example,” the Chairman of the UAE General Sports Authority added. “If the relationship comes back to normal and all problems are resolved, we would be more than happy to help the Qataris.”
Rumaithi is challenging Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s ruling family, for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation and said that if he won he would back Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
Under AFC rules, candidates for the presidency are not allowed to campaign for the April 6 election during the Asian Cup but Rumaithi made it clear what his main platform would be.
“One short statement: improving the level of football in Asia,” he said. “That has to have a lot of tools but I know where I’d start. I can’t say [exactly] because I don’t want to violate the rules but any president needs to improve the level of football in Asia, not just in the rich countries but all over the region.”