FIFA President Gianni Infantino will undoubtedly have calmed the nerves of many clubs, coaches, players and fans when he now guarantees Oceania a spot in any revitalisation of the Club World Cup.
Rumours have been circulating that FIFA’s planned expansion of the Club World Cup, set to up the number of teams from the current seven to a whopping 24, would be without a team from Oceania.
But now FIFA President Gianni Infantino has confirmed that Oceania will still have a place at the table, should the new competition see the light of day.
“We can see that there is some quality here [in Oceania], the problem is that nobody knows about it, and why does nobody know about it, it’s because the current Club World Cup is not good, and it has to be changed. It has to be changed to have a real impact, so we are proposing to change it […] with a real Club World Cup, with maybe 24 teams, of which at least one should be from Oceania.
Infantino: “The world will watch the new competition”
“One fixed spot, not like now for the World Cup which is a half spot, but one spot for an Oceania team,” Infantino said when speaking at the recent OFC Congress in Auckland.
The new Club World Cup tournament will take the place of the Confederations Cup and will be hosted every four years, starting in 2021.
“In a real Club World Cup, which is played in the June slot of the Confederations Cup … the world will watch this competition. The best teams of the world will participate, including one team from Oceania, which will make Oceania known in the world, and which can compete.
“We know the only sport in the world is football where in 90 minutes anything can happen, so I think this will boost club football all around the world and in particular in Oceania,” the FIFA President said.
OFC President wants to look at the Champions League
Over in Europe, the protests are many and loud with both UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA), representing 232 clubs, voicing their concerns, saying the European clubs will boycott the first edition and only consider taking part from 2024 onwards.
Should the competition, which FIFA has now greenlit, really happen, then newly-elected OFC President Lambert Maltock says he wants to look at the continent’s own top competition.
He wants to see how that can be improved to give Oceania teams a better fighting chance.
“I want to review the OFC Champions League and look at, for example, making it a professional league. We want to create something that addresses the elite players of the region,” Maltock told the OFC website.
“But overall, we need to try and bring everyone up, we need competitive competitions and that’s what I’ve asked the competitions department to start working on it.”