African nations threw their support behind FIFA's proposal for a biennial World Cup as Gianni Infantino claimed elite-level opponents of the plan are objecting out of fear.

FIFA president Infantino made a personal appearance at African federation CAF's extraordinary general assembly in Cairo on Friday, along with Arsene Wenger.

Former Arsenal boss Wenger is the head of global development at FIFA, with the world governing body employing the Frenchman as a figurehead for the World Cup overhaul.

It is far from a fait accompli that FIFA will get its way – UEFA and CONMEBOL are firmly against the switch – but CAF members overwhelmingly backed the plan, having been told by Infantino that it provided a route towards more opportunities on the world stage.

"Obviously as well, it's natural and understandable, those who are against it are those at the top," Infantino told CAF members.

"It happens in every sector of life when there are reforms and changes; those who are at the top, they don't want anything to change because they are at the top, and they are afraid maybe that if something changes, their leadership position is at risk.

"We understand that, and we compliment and applaud them for having been so successful in reaching the top. This is fantastic, and they are an example for everyone.

"But at the same time, we cannot close the door, we need to keep the door open, we need to give hope, and we need to give opportunities to the entire world.

"We need to give more opportunities to all the teams to play with each other - will it be with the World Cup or will it be in another way? We have to study of course all of this.

"We continue to consult, we continue to speak, we thank you for your views and your input."

Infantino has been telling African nations of the prospect for development long before FIFA put forward its World Cup proposal, and it is clear he has strong support on the continent.

Wenger gave a presentation in which he expressed his belief that biennial World Cups for men's and women's football and also spoke of the prospect of more chances to compete for African nations.

"I only defend the project because it is to make football better and more competitive," Wenger said.

A resolution was announced during the general assembly, in which it was stated: "CAF welcomes the FIFA congress decision to conduct the feasibility study on having men's and women's World Cup every two years.

"If the FIFA study concludes that it is feasible, CAF will fully support hosting the men's and women's World Cup every two years."

CAF president Patrice Motsepe conducted a show of hands and, with no objections to the resolution, declared it a unanimous vote in favour of backing FIFA.

Mikel Arteta has invited Arsene Wenger to make a sensational Arsenal return as he claimed the Gunners "would be delighted to have him much closer".

Wenger was appointed Arsenal manager in 1996, leading the Gunners to three Premier League titles and seven FA Cup triumphs before his departure in 2018.

The Frenchman currently works as FIFA's chief of global football development, acting as a figurehead for world football's governing body.

Arteta played under Wenger for five years before retiring in 2016 and taking a coaching role with Manchester City, prior to accepting his first managerial job at Arsenal in December 2019.

After meeting the 72-year-old at the recent premiere of his film 'Arsene Wenger: Invincible', Arteta indicated he would welcome his former manager Wenger back to the club immediately.

"There has been communication, I saw him and talked to him when we went to see his film. It was incredibly pleasant to see him, to chat to him, and hopefully we can bring him close," Arteta told a news conference when asked about Wenger on Thursday.

"I think he would have a great time seeing the environment he could create around him.

"It is great when he comes around this place because of the respect and admiration everyone at the club has what for he has done and what he represents as a person for us."

Pressed for clarity on a potential role for Wenger, Arteta said: "I cannot tell you now, but what I can say is I would like him to be much closer, personally to me because he would be a great help for me and the club.

"But things take time, and he has to dictate those timings. What I can say, on behalf of everybody, is we would be delighted to have him much closer."

Arsenal are preparing to face strugglers Newcastle United on Saturday, having won 16 of their last 17 Premier League meetings with Eddie Howe's new side.

The Gunners have also never lost a game against the side starting the day bottom of the top-flight table, but Arteta has warned that Newcastle pose a different threat under Howe.

A 4-0 defeat to Liverpool last weekend has set back the progress that Arsenal appeared to be making.

"We must play as good as we can, we will learn [from the Liverpool loss] and compete throughout the game," Arteta said.

"Let's keep going, it's a new game. There are some changes [at Newcastle]. You can see the momentum is building; it's different even in the last game they played.

"New manager, the new coaching staff – we need to be prepared. I admire Eddie and his style of play, Newcastle are not as poor as the table suggests.

"Their last few games could have all gone entirely different ways. With the attacking threats they have got in the final third, we are going to have to be really cautious and play as well as we can."

Premier League clubs are unanimously opposed to FIFA's proposal for a biennial men's World Cup.

While the idea of a World Cup every two years had been tentatively mentioned in the past, it gained traction in July when former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger – now FIFA's head of global football development – publicly backed the potential change.

FIFA began carrying out a feasibility study and Wenger insisted a biennial World Cup "is what the fans want", but the proposals have been met with widespread criticism.

UEFA officials have been particularly vocal in their opposition, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) expressed concerns, and players and managers have largely questioned the wisdom of such an alteration to the football calendar.

The Premier League has now lent its collective voice to the conversation, denouncing FIFA's proposals – which also encompassed the extension of international windows – due to concern for player welfare and domestic football.

A Premier League statement confirmed none of the 20 Premier League clubs were in favour of a World Cup every two years, while CEO Richard Masters said: "The Premier League is committed to preventing any radical changes to the post-2024 FIFA International Match Calendar that would adversely affect player welfare and threaten the competitiveness, calendar, structures and traditions of domestic football.

"We are open to reforms and new ideas, but they must enhance the complementary balance between domestic and international football in order to improve the game at all levels.

"This process should also involve meaningful agreements with the leagues that provide the foundations for the game.

"We will continue to work with supporter groups, players, domestic and international stakeholders to find solutions that are in the best interests of football's long-term future."

Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has revealed he is still open to returning to management.

Wenger has not held a coaching role since his 22-year reign with the Gunners came to an end in 2018.

The 72-year-old currently serves as FIFA's head of global football development and that role remains his priority for now.

But at the premiere of the film 'Arsene Wenger: Invincible', the Frenchman suggested he had not ruled out the possibility of returning to the dugout at some stage.

"I'm crazy, I'm crazy enough to be crazy and to make a crazy decision," Wenger said.

"But overall I would say no, I am determined at the moment not to do it.

"Maybe a national team at some stage for a term but at the moment I am involved in projects with FIFA and want to get to the end of it.

"We have just launched an academy online to give a chance to everybody in the world to develop as a football player – that is, for me, more useful now."

Wenger will be comfortable if his return to management never ends up materialising.

He added: "I made 1,235 games for Arsenal, and overall in my career 2,000 games – if I manage 10 more it will not change my life."

Wenger won three Premier League titles and the FA Cup seven times with Arsenal, who he joined after spells with Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight.

His latest comments come after remarks in September where he defended the results in his final years at Arsenal and hit back at suggestions he was too old to be a manager given he remains "in good shape".

From "Arsene Who" to "The Invincibles", via all those things he did not see, Arsene Wenger brought a whole new lexicon to English football.

He also changed the way the game is viewed in England, completely altering the horizons of a largely closed-off football culture to turbo-charge its transformation into the home of the most diverse, globally respected and richest domestic league on the planet.

Wenger's legacy in the Premier League is beyond question and its roots go back 25 years to October 12, 1996, when he oversaw his first ever match in charge of the club.

Across more than two decades, Wenger's Arsenal broke records, moved homes and changed their image forever. Here we look back at some memorable moments and the Opta numbers behind a towering sporting era.

Ton-up strikers

Wenger's initial years in north London saw him skilfully combine the rugged English core of a team that previously enjoyed trophy success under George Graham with his more pioneering ideas – a blend that found full realisation with the 1997-98 double success.

"One of my jobs was to keep faithful to the qualities I had found here. I tried always to maintain the tradition and values of this club," Wenger said on the eve of his final game at Huddersfield Town in May 2018.

That was game 1,235 and game one took place on the other side of the Pennines against Blackburn Rovers.

Foremost among the qualities Wenger found at Arsenal were those of the man who would become the club's record goalscorer on his watch.

Ian Wright scored both goals to get the brave new era up and running with a 2-0 win over a club who had been champions of England a little over a year earlier.

Wright was 33 when Wenger arrived and injury curtailed his involvement in the glorious 1997-98 run-in. However, earlier in that season he broke Cliff Bastin's long-standing Arsenal club record and concluded his Gunners' career with 185 goals in 288 appearances.

The England striker's best mark would, of course, be surpassed by the great Thierry Henry, whose phenomenal haul of 228 all came on Wenger's watch.

Overall, there were five goalscoring centurions during the Wenger era, with Robin van Persie next on the list with 132 before his acrimonious departure to Manchester United in 2012.

Theo Walcott (108), Olivier Giroud (105) and Wright's one-time strike partner Dennis Bergkamp (102) were the other men into three figures.

Glory days at Old Trafford

That first taste of victory was one of 10 wins in 17 visits to Ewood Park, a win percentage of 58.8 per cent. Of the away or neutral venues Wenger's Arsenal played at in Britain, that ratio was only bettered by seven wins from 11 at Fulham's Craven Cottage (63.6 per cent).

Of course, there are other grounds far more synonymous with his reign, not least the home of Manchester United and his great rival Alex Ferguson.

Other than Highbury and the Emirates, Wenger managed his biggest number of Arsenal games at Old Trafford – 31 in total.

It was often an unhappy hunting ground, the scene of an 8-2 defeat in August 2011 that was his worst in terms of goals conceded and joint-heaviest by margin.

Only at Stoke City's Bet365 Stadium (18.2 per cent) and Tottenham's White Hart Lane (24 per cent) was Wenger's win ratio lower than at Old Trafford (W8 D6 L17 for 25.8 per cent). But when the wins came, they were seismic.

In March 1998, Marc Overmars nodded Nicolas Anelka's flick-on into his own path and steered beyond Peter Schmeichel for a 1-0 victory that proved pivotal in that season's title race.

Another iconic Arsenal moment came in May 2002, when Sylvain Wiltord pounced to beat compatriot Fabien Barthez and the Gunners secured Premier League glory on United's own patch.

There were more recriminations than celebrations in September 2003 after an ill-tempered 0-0 draw between the sides. However, had Ruud van Nistelrooy not crashed a penalty against the crossbar – much to Martin Keown's contorted, vein-popping satisfaction – Arsenal would not have been Invincibles.

7-up and springing Prague

An away ground not quite as synonymous with Wenger is the Madejski Stadium.

Nevertheless, Reading are the opponent Arsenal played most often while maintaining a 100 per cent record under the Frenchman, winning 10 out of 10.

The most famous of these wins was a 7-5 triumph in Berkshire in October 2012, where Arsenal averted EFL Cup embarrassment in utterly berserk fashion.

After 35 minutes, Reading were 4-0 up thanks to Jason Roberts, a Laurent Koscielny own goal, Mikele Leigertwood and Noel Hunt. Afterwards, their manager Brian McDermott, a former Arsenal player, would reflect upon the "worst" defeat of his career.

Walcott reduced the arrears before the interval and the England winger's second of the match deep into injury time, after a goal from Giroud and one at the right end from Koscielny, forced an additional half hour.

Marouane Chamakh put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the tie and, although Pavel Pogrebnyak made it 5-5, the Moroccan forward scored his second after Walcott completed his hat-trick to crown what Wenger dubbed "maybe my greatest comeback", with a touch of understatement.

It was not the only time Arsenal scored seven under Wenger, and the biggest wins of his tenure came when they kept the back door shut, with Everton, Middlesbrough and Slavia Prague all beaten 7-0 in a spell spanning May 2005 to October 2007.

Coincidentally, Slavia's neighbours Sparta are next on Wenger's perfect record list after Reading, losing six out of six against Arsenal in the Champions League.

Mourinh-woe

Over time, an underlying warmth revealed itself in the Wenger-Ferguson rivalry. It was hard to say the same when it came to his jousts with Jose Mourinho.

Wenger was a "voyeur" and a "specialist in failure" according to Mourinho's acidic tongue and the older man could be similarly biting.

"When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent," he witheringly observed after Mourinho announced himself in English football with his 2004-05 Chelsea sweeping all before them.

It will therefore have stung deeply when Wenger's 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal saw them ransacked in a 6-0 demolition at Stamford Bridge on March 22, 2014.

If the manner of the loss was humiliating, the defeat itself was one to be expected. In 19 encounters with Mourinho, Wenger won two – a 10.5 per cent win ratio that is by far his worst against another manager, with 30.6 per cent thanks to 15 victories from 49 attempts versus Ferguson next on the list.

Those paltry returns against the self-styled 'Special One' mostly come within a wider context of decline.

Wenger's first decade at Arsenal – spanning 1996-97 to 2005-06, their last at Highbury – yielded 11 trophies out of the 17 he won overall in north London, including all three Premier League titles.

Arsenal's win percentage dropped slightly after the move to Emirates Stadium, going from 70.2 per cent to 67.9 per cent, though they did score slightly more often, with their goals-per-game figure up from 1.8 to 1.9 in the latter period.

By this point, Wenger was joined in the Premier League by the finest coaching talents from across Europe. It was a far cry from his own appointment, when he became only the fourth manager in England's top flight to hail from outside the British Isles.

Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and others had all come along to raise the bar Wenger set to even greater heights, although he would enjoy one last defining triumph at the expense of one of their contemporaries.

FA Cup specialist

Chelsea entered the 2017 FA Cup final as hot favourites to complete the double after romping to Premier League glory in Antonio Conte's first season in charge.

A 3-0 defeat to Arsenal the previous September inspired Conte to revert to his favoured 3-4-2-1 system and was the catalyst for a dominant revival.

This turn of events seemed to encapsulate the futility of the late Wenger years, when every small success appeared only to serve as a precursor for a greater disappointment.

You could even say the same for his last final in the competition he dominated, given it preceded his lowest ever Premier League finish of sixth in his farewell campaign.

But Arsenal were stirringly brilliant that day at Wembley. Per Mertesacker was wheeled out of cold storage to put in a colossal display at centre-back as Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey sealed a deserved 2-1 win.

Ramsey ranks 10th among Arsenal's top scorers of the Wenger era with 58 and two of those were FA Cup final winners, the Wales midfielder also netting decisively against Hull City in 2014.

Those were Wenger's fifth and seventh successes in a competition he has won more than any other manager in history, where his incredible Arsenal tenure means his position is ensured for posterity.

UEFA's chief of football Zvonimir Boban said those in the game must fight FIFA's proposal to stage the World Cup every two years because if it succeeds it would "hurt everybody." 

FIFA held an online summit last month to discuss moving World Cups from occurring every four years to every two, which has already been met by strong opposition within UEFA.

Former Milan and Croatia star Boban said the idea was "even worse than the Super League," which was foiled earlier this year by wide-ranging public backlash from fans and European clubs.

"Every normal person who understand and respect football, cannot accept the biennial World Cup idea," Boban said via Gazzetta dello Sport. "You would cancel 100 years of history of the World Cup, the best competition in the world.

"Football cannot be revolutionised unilaterally without a good consultation with all the parts involved and ordering other institutions to do other things: UEFA must organise Euro every two years, domestic league must cut the number of teams, this and that.

"The most absurd thing, even if probably clubs don’t realise it yet, is the two windows for international breaks. Three games in a row and a player is dead. Two games you can recover, three not. Travels don’t hurt footballers, too many games in a row do."

While several UEFA officials have spoken out against the plan, Boban's opposition is notable given his ties to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. 

Boban worked as FIFA's Deputy Secretary-General from 2016 to 2019. 

"It is such an absurdity that I could never imagine that could come from a president I still love after working with him for three years or from a football person like [Arsene] Wenger," he said. "This is idea is so crazy that we really have to fight against it because it would hurt everybody."

Boban said UEFA would never propose holding the Euros every two years, "even if it meant more money". 

"It would be bad for players, leagues, clubs as well as for the appeal of competitions," he added. "It does not respect anybody. It would destroy football's institutions together with the footballing pyramid that was built thanks to decades of work."

France head coach Didier Deschamps believes FIFA's proposed biennial World Cup plan will trivialise the tournament.

FIFA, led by chief of global football development Arsene Wenger, want to shift the World Cup format to see an edition take place every two years.

The former Arsenal manager's proposal would cause further scheduling issues for international footballers with an already heavy workload for club and country.

However, after both UEFA and CONMEBOL pushed back against the idea, Deschamps warned of devaluing football's showpiece event, though he appreciates any change will likely not come during his tenure with Les Bleus.

"To be honest, my first feeling in my playing career, being able to move on to a World Cup every two years, it makes me feel like I'm trivialising it," Deschamps told reporters on Thursday.

"That's the best word I can think of. I do not have all the ins and outs. I will not be the expert but until now, every four years, it was very good like that. We are used to it.

"Afterwards, it is according to the interests of each other. If the majority is there, it can pass. I think at that time, I wouldn't be concerned anymore. So I would watch."

Spain head coach Luis Enrique is also concerned about the problems it may force on footballers' workloads, though he accepts it would improve the overall experience for spectators.

"To unify a calendar and to have attractive possibilities for the viewer it is necessary in order for football to keep being attractive to young generations and to the world in general," he said.

"But it is obvious that the calendar needs to be reduced. I am not the right or capable person to advise from where it would need to be reduced.

"A World Cup every two years, as a national coach I would be delighted, of course. But a reduction is needed. And I don't know from where this reduction must come."

Arsene Wenger is "ready to take that gamble" by attempting to push through plans for the World Cup to be staged every two years.

Wenger, now FIFA's chief of global football development, is the figurehead of a move to transform the game's calendar, with the Frenchman seeking influential support but also encountering serious opposition to the project.

The legendary Arsenal manager has proposed the World Cup is held every two years and that there are fewer international breaks throughout the year.

While FIFA claims the majority of supporters favour holding the tournament more frequently, the plans have been strongly criticised by other governing bodies.

CONMEBOL, which represents South American federations, argued a change "could distort the most important football competition on the planet".

European football governing body UEFA, meanwhile, fears players burning out – among a range of other negative factors – should the proposals get the go ahead.

However, Wenger is not backing down and believes his suggestion will only improve the sport in the long term.

"The risk is to make football better, and I'm ready to take that gamble," he told BBC Sport.

"The international match calendar is fixed until 2024. Until then, nothing can change. I've been guided by a few ideas to propose a plan to reshape the international calendar.

"The first one is to make football better all over the world. The second one is to have a more modern way and more simple way to organise the calendar. 

"Therefore, I want to reduce the number of qualifiers and to regroup the qualifying periods."

 

Wenger, who left Arsenal in 2018 after 22 years at the club, insisted he would have backed the plans even had he still been a club manager.

"I'd agree with what I propose because I think for the club it's much better," he said. "There's no interference during the season. I suffered a lot from interference during the season.

"It's not about me, it is about the proposal to make football better, clearer, more simple and more meaningful to the world.

"I am convinced that the clubs gain in it because they can focus completely, they have their players available for the whole season and the national teams benefit from it as well.

"There's no increase of number of games, there's a better rest period, less travelling and more quality competition. That's why I think this project is really defendable.

"Yesterday I was in a very long meeting with [players union] FIFPRO, we consult everybody. We are conscious that we need to talk to everybody. 

"I think I've convinced FIFPRO that in my programme the players were my first worry."

Wenger also rejected the argument that the World Cup will be devalued by being held every two years.

"The World Cup's such a huge event that I don't think it will diminish the prestige," he said. "You want to be the best in the world, and you want to be the best in the world every year.

"I'm not on an ego trip. I've been asked to help to shape the calendar of tomorrow, I consult the whole world."

UEFA has demanded further consultation with FIFA over their plans for a biennial World Cup.

FIFA, led by chief of global football development Arsene Wenger, has been promoting the idea for the World Cup to shift format and take place every two years.

Wenger's proposal would see a major final held every year, the former Arsenal manager previously suggesting players would be playing in another tournament if it was not the World Cup either way.

However, UEFA and CONMEBOL both argued against the suggestions due to scheduling concerns. Earlier this week, FIFA invited the member associations to a summit to discuss the proposals.

On Wednesday, however, UEFA released a statement criticising FIFA's lack of consultation on a "potential radical move".

"In May 2021, the FIFA Congress mandated the FIFA administration to conduct a study into the feasibility of a Men's and Women's World Cup every two years," UEFA's statement read.

"UEFA assumes that the word "feasibility" encompasses all effects and consequences and includes all issues relating to the calendar, formats and access of the final and preliminary competitions; the impact on existing club and national team competitions, their sporting and commercial opportunities; the impact on players' physical and mental health; the impact on fans, their desire to see more frequent tournaments of this standing, the sustainability for them of more frequent travelling and the impact on the broad football eco-system, by which we mean assessing the balance of opportunities that national teams from all 211 FIFA member associations would have to develop in such a radically changed scenario."

UEFA also expressed concern over women's competitions receiving the attention needed to grow the sport, the impact on youth players and the potential of undermining other sports.

The statement continued: "We are grateful for the attention reserved to the UEFA European Championship, with the proposed double frequency of its final event, but we prefer to address such a sensitive matter with a comprehensive rather than speculative approach.

"UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting."

UEFA also believe the World Cup's prestige could be lessened by playing the tournament every two years.

However, European football's governing body acknowledged consultation is required to further refine the international calendar.

"UEFA is of the opinion that the future of the international calendar should be the subject of genuine consultation and exchange between FIFA, the confederations and key stakeholders of competitions, kicking off with an open discussion on perceived problems and considering a range of solutions that will be identified in the course of the debate, taking into account the interest of the game and the legitimate point of view of the different parties," the statement concluded.

"In this phase, the respect for a consultation process with the stakeholders - which should be unbiased - would suggest abstaining from promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts that nobody has been given the possibility to see in detail and which have wide-ranging, often unexpected, effects.

"On 14 September, UEFA and its 55 member associations asked FIFA to organise a special meeting with them to be able to voice their concerns on the impact of such plans. UEFA and its 55 member associations have to-date not yet received a reply from FIFA on this request."

Arsene Wenger is not ruling out a return to management in the future after feeling harshly treated following his departure from Arsenal.

The Frenchman left Arsenal in 2018 after 22 years at the club and is now working as FIFA's chief of global football development.

He won three Premier League titles with the Gunners and the FA Cup on seven occasions, while also reaching the Champions League final and famously overseeing the Invincibles side of 2003-04.

Arsenal failed to mount a serious title challenge after moving from Highbury to Emirates Stadium in 2006, though, and there was an increasingly vocal "Wenger Out" brigade near the end of his tenure.

But Wenger believes he deserves more credit for what he achieved in his final years in north London, with Arsenal finishing fifth in the Premier League and then eighth in back-to-back seasons since he left.

"I think people are quite harsh about the last years," he told The Telegraph. "In 2016, we finished second in the league. Leicester won, but other teams were behind Leicester as well and Leicester only lost three games. 

"In 2017, we did not qualify for the top four for the first time in 20 years, but we got 75 points.

"People don't realise. We won the FA Cup against Chelsea, who had just won the championship. In 2018, we lost the League Cup final against Manchester City, we lost in the semi-final of the Europa League against Atletico Madrid, by one goal.

"Arsenal will be in my heart forever, but I focus on my next life now.

"I gave the best years of my career to develop what I think is important – the stadium, to pay it back and put the club in a position where it was capable of facing the future and had the potential to do well. 

"At the end of the day, above all, we won and what I am most proud about is putting the club in that position."

Wenger has been linked with a number of jobs at club and international level since leaving Arsenal a little over three years ago.

Despite turning 72 next month, the former Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight coach has hinted he may be tempted into another managerial position.

"Overall we have to accept that our days come to an end at some stage," he said. "But I don't rule it out.

"There are always people who say 'You are too old', so at the time maybe I thought they were right, but I am in good shape and I have not completely decided not to do it anymore."

FIFA has invited football's governing bodies to an online summit to discuss biennial World Cup plans and the international calendar on September 30.

FIFA, led by chief of global football development Arsene Wenger, has been promoting the idea for the World Cup to shift format and take place every two years.

Wenger's proposal would see a major final held every year, the former Arsenal manager previously suggesting players would be playing in another tournament if it was not the World Cup either way.

However, UEFA and CONMEBOL have both rubbished the suggestions due to scheduling concerns, with FIFA now inviting the pair - along with all other member associations and league representatives - to discuss matters further.

"There is a broad consensus within the game that the International Match Calendar should be reformed and improved," FIFA's statement on Monday said.

"Following invitations to stakeholders, including all confederations, at the beginning of September, discussions are being organised in the coming weeks.

"This is one of several opportunities to establish a constructive and open debate, at a global and regional level, over the coming months and FIFA is looking forward to it.

"As this is a football project, in which the global interests of football should come first, this process started with players and coaches from all over the world. The debate will also involve fans from around the globe.

"FIFA is committed to being a forum for meaningful debate by engaging with a wide range of stakeholders including fans and looks forward to discussions on the sustainable growth of football in all regions of the world, at all levels."

The men's World Cup has taken place every four years since 1930, aside from 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War, while the women's World Cup has followed suit since its 1991 debut.

However, FIFA released results of fan surveys last week, which showed most favoured a two-year gap between World Cups, though in each age category the popular choice was to retain the current format.

Roberto Mancini is wary about the prospect of the World Cup taking place every two years, with Italy's Euro 2020 winning boss calling for talks to weigh up the FIFA proposal.

The current men's international match calendar ends in 2024 and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is seeking to shape a new schedule in his role as FIFA's chief of global football development.

However's, the plans being pushed by Wenger have been met with opposition, with CONMEBOL and UEFA both coming out vehemently against his core idea.

The World Cup has traditionally been a tournament that has been held once every four years, and there are worries players could be overburdened and the competition devalued if it switches to a biennial event.

Mancini has not outright come out against the idea, but he wants it thoroughly examined.

"The World Cup every two years is something to be evaluated," Mancini said, quoted widely in the Italian media.

"The World Cup is fascinating because it comes once every four years. If you play every two, it would mean a World Cup, a European Championship, a World Cup, a European Championship. I don't know, we need to talk about it."

For now, Mancini is looking to build on his team's success in the recent European Championship, when they beat England on penalties in the final to be crowned kings of the continent.

The success put former Inter and Manchester City boss Mancini in the spotlight, and he has affirmed his commitment to Italy ahead of next year's World Cup in Qatar, ruling out a return to club management before that tournament.

Italy are closing in on a place in the finals, leading the way in Group C with four wins and two draws, extending their unbeaten record to an all-time record of 37 matches.

"Going back to coaching a club? Now there is the World Cup and then let's see," Mancini said. "We have to stay focused on the World Cup, we have to quickly secure qualification and we have to try to win the Nations League.

"I don't think about clubs and I am concentrated on the national team. Coaching the national team is the best thing."

FIFA has been urged not to push through a decision on holding the World Cup every two years by CONCACAF, which called for all nations to be given chance to weigh in on the matter.

The current men's FIFA international match calendar ends in 2024 and Arsene Wenger is seeking to shape a new schedule in his role as FIFA's chief of global football development, but his plans have been met with opposition.

CONMEBOL said on Friday that South American nations are firmly opposed to a biennial World Cup, and CONCACAF – which governs the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean – underlined the importance of all voices being heard in the debate.

A CONCACAF statement read: "Meetings between FIFA officials and the Confederation and, separately, CONCACAF Member Associations, will take place in the coming weeks.

"Our initial analysis is that we recognise the merits of creating entirely new international men's, women's, and youth football calendars which are underpinned by fewer international windows, reduced travel for players, friendlies being replaced by meaningful matches, and a more balanced structure for the overall benefit of football development globally.

"We will continue to look at these proposals constructively, with an open mind, and in the spirit of positive engagement.

"CONCACAF welcomes the fact that FIFA's chief of [global] football development, Mr. Arsene Wenger, has been transparent in sharing his vision and we are currently studying how the proposed changes would impact football in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

"While CONCACAF's immediate focus is on its own region, we also believe in the importance of being part of the global football family and we will listen to the views of football stakeholders in all parts of the world. It was in this spirit that CONCACAF was supportive of UEFA and its European football stakeholders when recent threats to their own club competitions structures were explored."

UEFA expressed strong opposition to the plans for a biennial World Cup, warning of a possible boycott if the plans go ahead.

While CONCACAF's statement did not show the level of clear opposition to the plans that came from UEFA and CONMEBOL, it urged caution nonetheless.

"Football in all parts of the world should be given an equal opportunity to play a part in the development of what is a FIFA international football calendar. Now is not the time for fearmongering and neither is it right that this process should be dominated by the interests of a few, or that more weight should be given to one particular region over others.  

"We encourage not only our fellow confederations but also all members of the global football family to come together and work collaboratively to create FIFA calendars and competitions that have benefits for the development of the game in all regions across the world."

South American nations are firmly opposed to FIFA staging the World Cup every two years, CONMEBOL said on Friday, warning that such a change "could distort the most important football competition on the planet".

The confederation indicated it had been wrong to advocate for a switch from the current format, after its president Alejandro Dominguez pushed in 2018 for the world governing body to consider holding the global tournament more frequently.

Arsene Wenger is the figurehead of a move to transform the game's calendar, with FIFA's chief of global football development seeking influential support but also encountering serious opposition to the project.

Europe's top leagues have said they are "firmly and unanimously" opposed to the plans, while UEFA has strongly expressed its opposition and warned of a possible World Cup boycott if the plans get the go-ahead, with its president Aleksander Ceferin saying European and South American national federations were "on the same page".

That point has now been underlined by a CONMEBOL takedown of FIFA's plans that concludes it would be "highly unviable" and that there was "no sporting justification" to change the World Cup from its current status as a tournament that is staged every four years.

CONMEBOL said it had consulted senior South American football officials before delivering its verdict.

It stated: "A World Cup every two years could distort the most important football competition on the planet, lowering its quality and undermining its exclusive character and its current demanding standards.

"The World Cup is an event that attracts the attention and expectations of billions of people because it represents the culmination of a process of elimination that lasts the entire four-year period and has its own dynamics and appeal.

"A World Cup every two years would represent an overload that is practically impossible to manage in the international competition calendar. In the current conditions, it is already complex to harmonise times, schedules, logistics, adequate preparation of equipment and commitments. The situation would be extremely difficult with the proposed change. It could even put the quality of other tournaments, both club and national, at risk.

"The idea of ​​the World Cup is to bring together the most talented footballers, the most outstanding coaches and the most trained referees to determine in a fair and fair competition which is the best team on the planet. This cannot be achieved without proper preparation, without teams developing their skills and technicians designing and implementing strategies. All of this translates into time, training sessions, planning, games.

"CONMEBOL defends the search for excellence in the field of play and is committed to increasingly competitive events of the highest quality. There is no sporting justification for shortening the period between World Cups."

 

The South American confederation said for any major change to take place, there must be "a frank debate, in which all opinions and criteria are considered".

FIFA's proposal is for the men's and women's World Cups to each take place every two years, along with international breaks for qualifying games during domestic seasons being fewer in number but longer in duration.

World Cup heavyweights Brazil and Argentina may be among South American nations concerned about the financial muscle within European football, and CONMEBOL is not closing its door to discussions with FIFA about developing the game.

It added that it was always "open to dialogue that seeks the best for football", but its opposition to the World Cup proposal appears inflexible, given the forthright terms in which it was delivered. Having performed one U-turn, a second would point to incompetence.

The upshot of Friday's development is that FIFA is facing stiff opposition from the two continental federations that have provided every men's World Cup winning team.

"Although at some point CONMEBOL supported the project in question, technical [analysis] showed that it is highly unviable," CONMEBOL's statement added.

"Therefore, under current conditions, it ratifies its support for the current World Cup model, with its terms and classification mechanisms, considering it consistent with the spirit that animated those who conceived and founded this competition."

Jurgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann have hit out at FIFA's plan to stage the World Cup every two years, saying such demands were too much for players.

Liverpool manager Klopp and Bayern Munich head coach Nagelsmann are considered two of Europe's top bosses, and their stance is directly contrary to the position taken by FIFA's Arsene Wenger.

Former Arsenal manager Wenger is chief of global football development with the world governing body, and he has said the proposals are "the right solution for the modern way to organise football".

As well as the biennial World Cup, qualifying games would take place in extended mid-season international breaks, which would mean time spent away from clubs is concentrated into one or two stints in a campaign.

Wenger may find support for various aspects of his reform plans, but shifting the World Cup from its long-standing tradition of happening every four years is a step too far for many senior figures in the game.

Klopp said in a Liverpool news conference on Friday: "There's no other sport in the world with such a relentless calendar. [There are] more demanding sports, but they don't run all year.

"We know why it's happening. Whatever people say ... it's all about money. That's fine. We do it because we love it and get lots of money as well.

"At one point, someone has to understand that without the players we cannot play this. No one is more important than the players. A World Cup every two years, then every two years there is the Euros too.

"So every year, a top-class player plays an international tournament. A three-week break every year?

"The ideas about reform are always about more games. There are too many 'meaningless games' [they say] but if you only have competitions under pressure that's difficult. We never have time for pre-season with key players. They play without a break. That's not right."

 

Nagelsmann's verdict reflected that of his fellow German Klopp.

"A World Cup every two years, I don't like that," Nagelsmann said in Bayern's pre-match news conference.

"I'm not a friend of that idea. On one hand it's the strain on all the players and of course it just diminishes a World Cup if it's every two years.

"We have such a flood of games, a schedule that's difficult to cope with, specifically here in Germany and here in Munich.

"We have to have proper finances, make sure that we have a good squad. We need bigger squads, that means you have bigger costs. You need 24 players because you have to compensate for all the injured players because of this busy schedule.

"At some point it doesn't make any more sense. The footballers are there to entertain the masses, and to thrill the masses. But of course these are people who have health and fitness issues every once in a while who need a day or two to regenerate.

"This incredibly busy schedule isn't good for the quality of the games.

"And if the quality of the games decreases then there's going to be less money in future – people will not watch as much football if it's slow, if the players are injured and can't run anymore."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin this week claimed teams from Europe and South America may boycott the World Cup if FIFA presses ahead with its plan.

The Premier League, meanwhile, was among a group of major European leagues that came out "firmly and unanimously" against FIFA's proposals.

The men's World Cup has taken place every four years since the inaugural edition in 1930, aside from 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War, while the women's World Cup has followed suit since it was first staged in 1991. The men's 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar.

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