As blockade continues, FIFA head considers possible shared hosting rights in other Gulf countries and increasing teams.
FIFA, football’s governing body, is considering expanding the Qatar 2022 World Cup from 32 teams to 48, with the possibility of Doha sharing the tournament with other countries in the Gulf region.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday that the expansion, which is slated for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico, could come early at the next event.
“We have decided as well to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup final tournaments, from 32 to 48. This will happen in 2026. Will it happen already in 2022? We are looking into it. If it is possible, why not?”, said Infantino, speaking at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Qatar beat bid rivals Australia, Japan, South Korea and the US in 2010 to claim the hosting rights, becoming the first Arab country to do so.
One of its stated aims was to create a legacy for the Middle East, but last year, its Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain severed political and economic ties with Qatar, imposing a land, sea and air embargo on the peninsula.
“We have to see if it is possible, if it is feasible,” said Infantino about the potential expansion in four year’s time.
“We are discussing with our Qatari friends, we are discussing with our many other friends in the region and we hope that this can happen,” he added.
“And, if not, we will have tried. We will have tried because we always have to try to do things in a better way.”
Infantino’s favoured plan of adding 16 extra teams – with 16 three-team groups – to football’s mega event was unanimously approved by the FIFA Council last year.
The 2026 tournament in North America is set to be the first World Cup hosted by three nations.
Preparations are under way in Qatar, which is breaking with tradition with a winter kick-off, as it looks to avoid the scorching summer heat.
Seven new state-of-the-art stadiums with advanced open-air cooling technology are being built from scratch for the 2022 event.
The eighth one, Khalifa International Stadium, was inaugurated in May last year, after undergoing renovations and upgrades.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has said that Qatar 2022 is “very important for the whole region” and hopes that the football tournament will help the Arab countries “overcome difficulties”.
“We need to basically be careful and look at the feasibility and understand what the implications are before any decision is taken,” Nasser al-Khater, Qatar 2022’s assistant secretary-general, told Al Jazeera in an interview in July.
Analysts have warned that the expansion of Qatar’s tournament will present a fresh batch of problems to a host nation that has already been the subject of much condemnation over migrant workers’ rights and its winter schedule.
“How would Qatar – already working around the clock to cater for the needs of 32 nations, 64 games and the hundreds of thousands of fans eager to support their teams – allow for another 16 teams, not forgetting, of course the extra games and extra fans it would have to host in the allotted schedule?,” wrote Ross Griffin, assistant professor of Postcolonial Literature at Qatar University.
Al Jazeera’s sports correspondent Lee Wellings, reporting from London, said Infantino’s latest remarks are more about “FIFA politics” than the 2022 World Cup.
“He [Infantino] is standing in Kuala Lumpur and talking to people who want to hear that there’s a chance for more teams in a tournament which is happening in their continent, so he knows he’s preaching to the converted,” he said.
“What he also believes, somewhere at the back of his mind, is that he can actually make a political difference, rather like Sepp Blatter [ex-FIFA president] before him,” Wellings said.
“But when it comes to trying to sort out situations in the Middle East … to actually make this happen is way beyond Infantino and FIFA.”
The People of South Sudan have a lot of expectations in the recently inaugurated Khartoum peace pact. They hope the peace accord will be honored and implemented to the letter by the warring parties.
In my opinion, time has come to find an amicable solution to the intractable conflict bedeviling the Republic of South Sudan. Since 2013`s outbreak of war to date, the people of South Sudan have suffered a lot. South Sudanese have witnessed tens of thousands killed, destruction of properties, rape of innocent women and millions of South Sudanese displaced internally and to our neighboring countries.
South Sudan’s predicament has been described by many international entities as possibly the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the history of world!
I find it disheartening that South Sudan`s leaders remain blind to the suffering of its masses. The country`s economy is in ruins with the budget registering deficit. Hyperinflation has reached alarming proportions, war is raging all over the country and UNMISS foreign troops are actively involved in looting of the natural resources and abusing the rights of civilian population. The war has drained our human and material resources.
To make another step towards ending all these intolerable conditions and egregious suffering, we urge both warring parties to apologize to the people of South Sudan in the upcoming Peace Celebrations in Juba over prior unwillingness to embrace peace. Truth is, this may be the last attempt at peace building for our country.
The citizens and all stakeholders in the peace processes are tired and dispirited. This is because prior peace agreements in South Sudan have failed courtesy of blatant unwillingness for implementation from political leaders.
The concerns cited by the opposition chief, Dr. Riek Machar and other rebel leaders ought to be looked at carefully by the government and where possible addressed to seal possible loopholes for future discrepancies. After the formation of abroad base government, I urge President Kiir and his Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar to pay official visit to our 34 states in the country and elucidate to the people how they are going to honour and implement the Khartoum peace agreement.
In the previous triumvirate government of Salva Kiir, Riek Machar and James Wani, the three were supposed to carry out civil education or sensitization to the people regarding the implementation of August 2015’s peace accord signed in Addis- Ababa under the auspices of Inter -governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). As a result of their failures to doing so, the 2016 July outbreak of violence contributed to massive looting, destruction of property, deaths and displacement of civilians across the country.
In the Old Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which was signed by the two warring parties, SPLM and NCP –Sudan government; there was a dissemination of the CPA to the constituents in grassroots in the South and North Sudan. Dr. John Garang and President Bashir were determined to honor and implement the agreement to the letter and spirit . President Bashir as the topmost leader in the CPA offered leadership on this end. No wonder the pact worked that led to the 9th July Independence of the Republic of South Sudan.
Therefore, the people of South Sudan expect their leaders, President Salva Kiir, Dr. Riek Machar and other political faction groups to follow the footsteps of CPA’s leaders by adhering to the implementation of ongoing the Khartoum’s peace agreements. President Salva Kiir precisely must be at the forefront to ensure that works!
Of all the previous peace agreements signed in South Sudan, the people regarded such as agreements for the Juba’s political elites thus felt alienated from the benefits thereof. I feel that with every peace deals, must come peace dividends that include restoration of peace and stability, services delivery to the citizens, investment in socio- economic development, schools, roads, health, poverty reduction, revival of the economy, reparation of IDPs and refugees, institution reforms, good governance and a free and fair general elections.
I quote our late, hero. Dr. John Garang on peace process.
“It was you the paramount chiefs who ensured that the social fabric of our people was not disturbed by the war. You organized our people to support the liberation struggle, you mobilized and recruited the youth to join the ranks of the liberation struggle, and you organized your people to provide food for army of the liberation struggle. It was your bull, your goat, your chicken, your fish and dura (sorghum) and cassava that fed us, it is you who carried the war materials on your heads and shoulders… During our liberation struggle young proved as essential to our survival as water is essential to the survive of fish.
I know as much as you do, that in spite of your major contributions to the liberation struggle, our relations were not milk and honey. Some of you were manhandled and treated badly by some our soldiers… My dear paramount chiefs and traditional leaders, I apologize to you my on behalf as leader , and on behalf of the SPLA and on behalf of your government for those bad things we did to you as individuals during the course of our liberation struggle and even during peace times. I ask you as victims and as leaders to forgive ourselves” Dr. John Garang de Mabior
After Peace Celebrations, the warring leaders must tour the country together to apologies, preach healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity and cement social fabric among 64 tribes and call on all citizens to love each other and coalesce together for the benefit of our beloved nation. This is the only lifeline for our delicate situation in our country. Together we stand, divided we fall!
President Zewde is in a unique position to help change the lives of Ethiopia’s long suffering women for the better.
On October 25, a special joint session of both houses of the Ethiopian parliament accepted President Mulatu Teshome Wirtu’s letter of resignation. The much-respected president’s resignation was a surprise to many, yet it soon became clear that this was yet another meticulously planned move by Ethiopia’s reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The very same morning, seasoned diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde was appointed the country’s fourth president under EPRDF rule, an era which began in 1991. With this appointment, Zewde also became the second woman in the country’s modern history to serve as head of state. Ethiopia’s last female leader before Zewde was Empress Zewditu, who had governed the country between 1916-1930.
President Zewde has a successful public service career spanning decades. Her first ambassadorial appointment in service of her country was in 1989 to Dakar, Senegal with additional accreditation to Mali, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Guinea.
During that time, Ethiopia’s brutal military-socialist regime was still in power and Ethiopia’s civil war was at its peak. When the military regime was overthrown two years later, most government ministers and high-ranking public servants were either purged or arrested, with most Ethiopian diplomats serving the country abroad requesting political asylum in the countries they had been residing in. However, even during this tumultuous time, Zewde chose not to abandon her post and continued to serve the new regime. She quickly gained the trust of the new leadership with her diplomatic competence and managed to stay in the ranks of the foreign service.
Since then, Zewde served Ethiopia as an ambassador in many countries across Africa and Europe. Eventually, she moved on to serving the international community at large, especially through her work at the United Nations. With her extensive experience working across conflict-prone nations in Africa, Zewde has helped the UN in its peace-building efforts in the Central African Republic.
Zewde’s final role at the UN, however, was arguably the most important. She was the first woman to be appointed by the international body as special representative to the African Union and head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, a role she served at the level of under-secretary-general.
Zewde’s appointment as Ethiopia’s new president came on the back of another surprising, but very welcome development. On October 16, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he decided to fill 50 percent of his cabinet with female ministers. Ahmed’s decision to have a gender-balanced cabinet was applauded in Ethiopia and beyond, but it was partially clouded by the fact that cabinet appointments are not always based on merit in Ethiopia. In this country, prime ministers are inescapably hostage to a culture of coalition politics, where party interests triumph over the interests of the people. Thus, despite the symbolic importance of the realisation of a gender-balanced cabinet, for some these appointments were not as important a victory for Ethiopian women, and Ethiopian people in general, as they’ve been trumped up to be.
However, this appointment is unquestionably momentous and groundbreaking. In spite of the fact that, in parliamentary Ethiopia, the office of the presidency is very much ceremonial, most Ethiopians respect and look up to the president. Anyone who serves in that role gets the opportunity to build a personal legacy, and leave their mark in the country’s history. Moreover, the office of the president is a bully pulpit that allows its holder to have direct access to the country’s prime minister and gives them an opportunity to comment and offer advice on political events. The head of state also presides over special parliamentary sessions and delivers speeches on the parliament opening sessions where he or she presents what the priorities of the government should be.
Having a woman take over such a revered office is undoubtedly going to inspire millions of Ethiopian women. However, the ways in which Zewde’s presidency is really going to affect the condition of women in Ethiopia will be determined by the causes she is going to champion and prioritise throughout her tenure.
Ethiopia embarked on a reform process six months ago and the changes its new leadership promised to make to achieve better governance and democratic improvement are slowly materialising. However, the country is still carrying the wounds of a devastating civil war, years of oppression and ongoing ethnic tensions and conflicts. And the burden of all this has been felt the most by Ethiopia’s women who, on top of losing their husbands, sons and brothers in conflicts and being displaced from their homes, also had to navigate their lives in a highly patriarchal society. For example, problems within the country’s education sector such as the meagre level of access to education in rural Ethiopia is still affecting women more than men. Beyond all this, Ethiopia still suffers from one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Although there have been promising improvements, to this day, most Ethiopian women give birth at home.
In light of all this, Ethiopian women desperately need a heroine who can be their voice and allow them to be heard clearly and loudly by the leadership of the country. This heroine can and should be the country’s first female President Zewde. To achieve this, she needs to make the empowerment of women the priority of her presidency.
Zewde has already implied that she is willing and eager to take on this duty during her acceptance speech before the joint session of the parliament. At some point in her speech she even joked: “if you think I am talking a lot more about women, well, I have not even started.”
President Zewde is now in a position to help implement important reforms that would significantly elevate the life quality of the most under-served and most well-deserving segment of the country’s citizenry: women. The fact that the current head of government, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, is a feminist reformer will likely help her in this journey.
Ethiopian women are undoubtedly happy to see a woman in one of the highest offices of the land. But beyond providing mere inspiration, what they expect from their new president is to actually change their lives for the better.
Only time will tell whether President Zewde will be able to live up to their expectations.