Wednesday 08 May 2024, 18:00

FIFA President highlights value of “shared emotion” created by major sporting events

  • Gianni Infantino tells delegates in Los Angeles the world unites at events like the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games

  • Says expanded 48-team FIFA World Cup 26 will allow everyone to “celebrate together” as United States marks 250th anniversary of independence

  • FIFA World Cup 26 will feature matches in Philadelphia and Houston on the 4 July 2026 anniversary during the finals

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has highlighted the importance of major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup™, telling the 27th Annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles that they create “a shared emotion” that helps “bring people together from all over the world”.

Along with North American neighbours Canada and Mexico, the United States will co-host the FIFA World Cup 26™, which will be the first expanded to 48 teams. That will provide an unprecedented 104 matches – “104 Super Bowls” as Mr Infantino himself described them – which will engage billions of fans across the planet and serve as a prime example of football’s unique ability to unite the world.

“When people go to a football match, they are all excited about the game, they speak with each other, (and) they live something together: an emotion, a shared emotion,” the FIFA President stated when referring to changing consumption habits of younger generations who have grown up as active users of modern mobile telephone devices. “I think this is what we need to foster. That’s why we need events. That’s why we need to bring people together from all over the world and suddenly people will start to speak to each other, to (get to) know each other and we can see, well, actually this other person from this other part of the world, he’s not so bad or she’s not so bad as described, right? And, this can happen only, I think, in our modern society, when we have a big event – like a big sporting event – the Olympic Games, the (FIFA) World Cup, which really brings millions of people from all over the world.”

The FIFA World Cup 26 will coincide with the 250th anniversary of American independence. The theme of the session on the final day of the three-day conference was ‘America250: Reinvigorating the American Dream through Sport, Celebration, and Education’, and Mr Infantino highlighted how the tournament is the ideal way to mark the occasion as millions of fans will come to the country and the continent.

“When we learned that in 2026, there is the 250th anniversary of the United States, we thought, well, you know, you have a celebration – we organise a party. So, we will bring between five and ten million people to the United States. We will have four, five, six billion people around the world watching and tuning in to the United States, and during June and July of 2026, the world will come to the United States for the (FIFA) World Cup, but also to celebrate this beautiful country, to celebrate its 250 years in all 11 host cities in the US,” he explained, noting that Philadelphia, where Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence, would host a game on Independence Day - 4 July 2026.

“There will be three [host cities] in Mexico and two in Canada as well which are part of the celebration because football unites – soccer unites – we bring everyone together and we celebrate together and it will be unique, because there is no other event that can bring so many people from so many parts of the world to one country to enjoy something.”

Sitting alongside Janet Evans, Chief Athletic Officer of LA 28 (the local organising committee of the 2028 Olympic Games), former champion skier Lindsey Vonn and 250 Committee Chair Rosie Rios, Mr Infantino outlined his ambitions for the future of football in the US where other sports, notably basketball, baseball, ice hockey and American football, are more popular. He stated that football’s growth in the US would be boosted if many American children did not have to pay to play.

“We need to give opportunities to children to play soccer or other sports for free, and to do that, we cannot just ask governments to fund; we have to engage the private sector. This is what happens in Europe when it comes to the soccer teams, to the soccer clubs in every single village,” the FIFA President explained. “And it works because you create a community and you give opportunities, and it’s the most important element.

“You give hope and joy to so many children around the world, and we cannot ask them to [pay]. Then, in a country like this of 350 million people, I mean, the sky is the limit in terms of talent and in terms of opportunities. So, invest (in building a bright future),” the FIFA President concluded, stressing that with a dedicated office in Miami, FIFA will remain in the United States after the FIFA World Cup 26 has been played, and remains committed to help the youth of the United States play football without that opportunity being limited by their financial means.