Football: Other Gulf states could join Qatar in co-hosting 2022 World Cup if expanded to 48 teams

Major-General Mohammed Khalfan al-Romaithi, chairman of the UAE's General Authority for Sports.
Major-General Mohammed Khalfan al-Romaithi, chairman of the UAE's General Authority for Sports.PHOTO: AFP

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman could stage some 2022 World Cup matches in order to hold an expanded event, if the countries have resolved their diplomatic dispute with tournament host Qatar, the UAE's sports chief said on Tuesday (Feb 26).

World football governing body Fifa is expected to decide in March whether it will expand the World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams, but has already warned it would be difficult for the Gulf Arab state to do it alone.

A deep political rift in the Gulf complicates the prospects of sharing the competition.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and non-Gulf state Egypt cut political, trade, and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017.

The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.

"If this is resolved, we are more than happy to help them organise the World Cup," said Mohammed Khalfan al-Romaithi, the chairman of the UAE General Sports Authority, in an interview in Abu Dhabi.

"But I know that if the crisis remains, we cannot."

He said the UAE, Kuwait, and Oman would have stadiums and infrastructure that meet Fifa's requirements to host World Cup matches.

He also said games could be held at smaller stadiums if Fifa allowed it.

Last month, Romaithi told Reuters the UAE would welcome an approach to co-host the 2022 World Cup if its rift with Qatar was resolved.

He believes the UAE is capable of hosting matches for two groups.

Qatar has said it will not take a decision on expanding the tournament until it sees the details of a feasibility study from Fifa.

The UAE this year hosted the Asian Cup, which was won by Qatar and who beat the host country 4-0 in the semi-finals.

That match was marred by crowd trouble, with UAE fans throwing shoes and bottles at Qatari players.

Romaithi said those scenes were not representative of Emirati fans and that he had apologised to Qatar FA officials.

Romaithi is challenging Sheikh Salman Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family, for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation in April.