Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has welcomed Fifa’s decision to expand the World Cup in 2026 to 48 teams, up from 32 nations.
The sport’s world governing body voted unanimously in favour of the change at a meeting in Zurich yesterday.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu yesterday said the development is good news for developing countries, especially in Africa.
“Our chances on paper will be much higher because the slots allocated to Africa will expand.
“[Nevertheless], our dream should be a reality and not far-fetched with proper planning. It all depends on our ambitions as a nation. With proper planning, Malawi can qualify within the next 10 years,” he said.
The FAM boss said the country already has existing grass roots structures at Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 leagues.
“This is a favourable decision and I applaud Fifa for giving Africa an increased opportunity of playing at the global showpiece,” he said.
An initial stage of 16 groups of three teams will precede a knockout stage for the remaining 32 when the change is made for the 2026 tournament.
The number of matches will rise to 80, from 64, but the eventual winners will still play only seven games.
It will make a mockery of the qualification process for most confederations
The tournament will be completed within 32 days – a measure to appease powerful European clubs, who objected to reform because of a crowded international schedule.
The changes mark the first World Cup expansion since 1998.
But according to a BBC report, New Fifa Now, a campaign group that says the governing body needs to reform, labelled the expansion “a money grab and power grab”.
“It will dilute the competitiveness of the tournament and, therefore, the enjoyment of fans,” it said in a statement.
“It will not help development of the game or provide improved competitive opportunities for lower-ranked nations. Instead, it will make a mockery of the qualification process for most confederations.”
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has been behind the move, saying the World Cup has to be “more inclusive”.
Speaking at a sports conference in Dubai in December, Infantino said expansion would also benefit “the development of football all over the world”.
He added: “There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup.”
Despite saying “the decision should not just be financially driven”, Infantino did highlight the possible financial upsides.
According to Fifa’s own research, revenue is predicted to increase to £5.29 billion for a 48-team tournament, giving a potential profit rise of £521 million. n