European clubs should look beyond own interests in wake of World Cup expansion, says PFF gen sec
PFF secretary-general Edwin Gastanes is surprised top European clubs are critical of Fifa's decision to expand the World Cup field to 48 beginning in 2026. Jerome Ascano

GIVE chance to others seems to be the message Philippine Football Federation general secretary Edwin Gastanes is hoping to send to European countries that have criticized the decision of Fifa (International Football Federation) to expand the World Cup field.

While most countries, especially from Asia and Africa, have welcomed the development that makes the sport’s showpiece event a 48-team competition starting in 2026, Gastanes said some countries have expressed opposition over the historic expansion.

“Ang number one objection dyan ay coming from the clubs in Europe because sabi nila, yung additional stage ay additional schedule yun na mababawas sa kanilang club competition, kasi Fifa window yan eh,” Gastanes said, explaining teams might breach contract obligations to sponsors.

“Pero wala naman negative, kasi pareho lang rin naman yung number of days ng competition, thirty-two days din,” he was quick to add.

Potential World Cup finalists will also have played the same number of games at seven: the current format has eight groups of four clubs playing in a single-round robin with the winner advancing to knockout stage, while the new format has 16 groups of three teams, with the top two qualifying for the knockout stage.

Gastanes emphasized the globalization of the Beautiful Game.

“You have to balance that (criticisim),” the lawyer said. “Ang football ngayon, hindi lang naman Europe at South America. Football now is worldwide.”

“Dapat naman, wag na masyadong myopic ‘tong mga established clubs in Europe,” he added. “Nauna na sila eh. ngayon, worldwide na talaga yung appeal.”

“Can you imagine what will happen to the countries na first time makakasama sa World Cup?” he continued. “It’s a promotion of the country and not just football players – and the activities, business, and economy that will be generated. Halimbawa ang Pilipinas naka-swerte, ibang klase ang suporta niyan ng private companies, government.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos