BERLIN (AP) — Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is criticizing successor Gianni Infantino’s plans for a 48-team World Cup and an expanded Club World Cup.
In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit released Wednesday, Blatter said that “what is happening at the moment is an overcommercialization of the game.”
“There are attempts to squeeze more and more out of the lemon — for example with the World Cup finals with 48 teams or now with a Club World Cup that must be viewed as direct competition to the Champions League,” he was quoted as saying. “FIFA is encroaching here on something that is actually none of its business, club soccer.”
The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada will be the first 48-nation tournament, meeting Infantino’s election pledge of a bigger and more inclusive World Cup going beyond European and South American teams. This year’s tournament in Qatar featured 32 teams.
Earlier this month, Infantino called for a 32-team men’s Club World Cup in 2025.
Blatter announced in June 2015 that he would resign early as FIFA president, in the fallout from a sprawling corruption investigation. He has long denied wrongdoing, saying in Wednesday’s interview that “I have never taken money that I didn’t earn — that’s why nothing on me could ever be proven in all the proceedings against me. And that will remain the case.”
Infantino, a fellow Swiss, succeeded Blatter in 2016. Blatter told Die Zeit that he has “no relationship with Infantino” and that the current president “behaved disrespectfully because he has refused any contact with me since his election.” Blatter added that “he only communicates with me via lawyers.”
Blatter claimed that he had repeatedly “tried to control the business,” for example in attempting to limit transfers of talented South American or African players to Europe. An attempt to introduce a pay cap for players also failed. Blatter said “we didn’t manage to protect soccer from economic and political influence.”
“I really tried always to serve soccer,” he said. “If in doing so I damaged it, then I am sorry.”
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