'No' to World Cup revamp - Wigan Athletic hero

Wigan Athletic's FA Cup-winning manager Roberto Martinez has voiced his opposition to FIFA's plans to revamp the World Cup schedule.

By Paul Kendrick
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 12:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 12:16 pm
Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez

The Belgium boss, who will lead the country in Qatar in 2022, is against the proposal to hold the tournament every two years.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino and chief of global football development Arsene Wenger have been pushing to change the calendar.

The governing body hosted a summit last week and told its 211 member associations £3.3billion in additional revenue would be generated from holding a biennial World Cup.

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France forward Kylian Mbappe and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski have raised their concerns and Martinez has now added his, and Belgium's, fears.

"In my view, and the view of the (Belgian football) federation, we are not in favour," he said.

"But we totally agree we need to find solutions and find what's best to allow players to be at their best when representing their clubs and national teams.

"A World Cup every two years will break the tradition. We all know players who have played in five World Cups and how special it is to be part of a World Cup.

"I don't think we're going to start seeing players who are involved in nine or 10 World Cups having the same feeling.

"It's an exceptional moment in a player's career and it should carry on with the glamour and the history it has at the moment. In Europe we are very fortunate because the European Championship is very strong, the Nations League is a really good tournament. There are other ways to find solutions at international level.

"We had a really interesting presentation, FIFA presented the proposal. It's positive we have the decision makers and the big football institutions talking about how to improve the calendar and make a judgement.

"Football in modern times needs to adjust to the demands of domestic and international football, especially after Covid in the last two seasons."

Martinez took Belgium to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 in the summer, losing to eventual winners Italy, and finished third at the World Cup in 2018.

He remains focused on leading the Red Devils in Qatar next year having been heavily linked with Newcastle.

The Magpies were reportedly keen on the 48-year-old after sacking Steve Bruce in October before eventually appointing Eddie Howe.

There was never any official approach from the Premier League strugglers and Martinez, also the country's technical director, reiterated his commitment to Belgium.

He said: "I cannot leave this project until after the World Cup.

"It happens when you are involved in international football, it's all a matter of timing.

"Newcastle is a wonderful club who are going to slowly reach new objectives and one day look to win titles.

"In my case it's about the timing and the opportunity to finish what I have got in hand - and not taking it for granted when you are only 11 months from the World Cup.

"They never contacted the federation, when you are under contract you need to allow the institutions to talk and that never happened."

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