Infantino suggests 48-team shared World Cup could “build bridges” in Middle East

The Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, has reaffirmed his intention to expand the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams, and has suggested that hosts Qatar “share” the event with hostile neighbours to foster peace in the region.

In an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian, Infantino said that the World Cup could help heal hostilities between Qatar and neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which are all currently enforcing an economic blockade against the Emirate.

Infantino was willing to overlook the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying that hosting World Cup matches could be a way to help Saudi Arabia “evolve” and added that “football makes miracles.”

The news comes after it emerged that Infantino had begun talks to sell control of almost all of Fifa’s rights, including those to the World Cup, to a “mystery consortium” revealed to be made up of Saudi investors. Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung claims to have seen documents detailing the potential $25bn sale, which would effectively see commercial control of Fifa handed over to the consortium.