London: American President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban could make it impossible for his country to host the 2026 World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino warned on Thursday.
The United States is the favourite to stage the expanded 48-team tournament in 2026, either on its own or as part of a joint-bid with neighbours Mexico and Canada. But with Trump seeking to ban nationals from several Muslim-majority countries, Infantino says the US may not even be in a position to submit a bid.
“Mr Trump is the president of the United States of America and as such of course (I have) huge respect for what he does," Infantino told reporters at London’s Heathrow airport. “He’s in charge, together with his government, to take decisions that are best for his country. That’s why he has been elected. We are now in the process of defining the bid requirements. In the world there are many countries who have bans, travel bans, visa requirements and so on and so forth.
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“It’s obvious when it comes to FIFA competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious. The requirements will be clear. And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements."
Infantino’s comments echoed recent remarks by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who said the World Cup “cannot be played" in a country with extensive travel restrictions.
Infantino also expressed hope that a dispute with the Argentine Football Association (AFA) will soon be resolved. FIFA has warned the AFA it could be suspended if it does not allow South American federation CONMEBOL to vet candidates in its forthcoming presidential election.
“Argentina unfortunately went through a very, very difficult period," said Infantino, who was speaking after a two-day FIFA executive football summit. “We were obliged to appoint a normalisation committee in Argentina, which is quite uncommon for a big football country like Argentina. But now it seems the statutes have been more or less agreed. There is one still open question, which will be solved soon.
“I’m very confident about that and then the elections will take place. “I’m confident there will be no need for drastic measures, provided everything goes well. Otherwise there will be need for drastic measures."