LONDON (AP) — Concerned about the prospects of an African team finally lifting the World Cup, FIFA President Sepp Blatter believes their chances would be enhanced if more teams from the continent were given berths at the tournament.
Blatter is seeking to break the stranglehold on World Cup berths for European and South American sides to ensure the global game is better represented at football's showpiece event. For the 2014 World Cup, 53 European teams have been competing for 13 spots at the finals, but the 54-nation Confederation of African Football will have only five teams in Brazil. That leaves Africa "woefully under-represented at the World Cup," according to Blatter.
"As long as this remains the case, African sides may never win an intercontinental trophy, regardless of progress on the playing side," Blatter wrote in FIFA's new weekly magazine which was published on Friday. "This flawed state of affairs must be rectified.
"At the end of the day, an equal chance for all is the paramount imperative of elite sport." Blatter has previously urged Asian football leaders to campaign for their continent's guaranteed World Cup berths to be increased from four.
By pushing for more African as well as Asian teams to gain entry to the World Cup, Blatter could be helping his own chances of being re-elected in 2015. Blatter appears to be backing away from his 2011 election pledge that he would leave the job when his fourth term ends, and seems to be trying to widen his supporter base.
"From a purely sporting perspective, I would like to see globalization taken seriously, and the African and Asian national associations accorded the status they deserve at the World Cup," Blatter said.
"It cannot be that the European and South American confederations lay claim to the majority of the berths at the World Cup (18 or 19 teams), because taken together they account for significantly fewer member associations (63) than Africa and Asia (100)."
Blatter used his FIFA column to outline expectations that football matches could soon become greater events "incorporating show acts and concerts." "For that to happen, stadium infrastructure and facilities must be improved," he said. "Football is culture and entertainment rolled into one, and it requires a setting worthy of that."
Blatter is due to address students at Oxford University late Friday before attending the English Football Association's 150th anniversary dinner the following night.