A matter of time
Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) president Gianni Infantino sees the Philippines at least “fighting very close” to landing a spot in the Fifa World Cup within the next “10 to 15 years.”
Speaking to select reporters after he was briefed by Philippine Football Federation officials on the state of the sport in the country, Infantino expressed satisfaction over the progress of the sport, while tipping the Philippines to be a bigger force outside the Southeast Asian region.
“I’m very positive about football in the Philippines,” said Infantino, 49, who was elected to a second term to lead the sport’s governing body early this year.
“I mean, already, if you see the most recent results in the last year or two with a qualification in the Asian Cup for men and women. The last couple of years has shown that some work is done and that some progress is made.”
The Azkals reached the AFC Asian Cup for the first time this year in the United Arab Emirates, just after the Malditas participated in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan.
“Certainly, we want to see the Philippines in the World Cup or at least fighting very close to be in the World Cup,” said Infantino. “For this reason, we have also increased the number of teams for the World Cup. From 32 to 48 and for the men’s and from 24 to 32 for women’s. We need to make it truly global and we need to increase the level.”
The 48-nation field in the Fifa World Cup will start with the 2026 edition in the United States.
Infantino believes putting in more infrastructure and increasing the number of competitions in the Philippines are key to the development of the sport, especially in countries where football isn’t a top priority.
“There is a much bigger potential so we have to focus much more on those [developing] countries,” said Infantino.
Fifa provides financial assistance of at least $1.5 million every year to member-countries.
“But it is targeted to projects which can make a difference. And these projects have to be in infrastructure and competitions.”
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