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FIFA President Against Plans to Increase Number of Teams at '06 World Cup - 2003-03-13

The president of world football's governing body (FIFA) has come out against plans to increase the number of teams at the 2006 World Cup in Germany from 32 to 36. Sepp Blatter, who was in Berlin, Germany Wednesday to unveil a new sponsor, is studying the proposal along with the German football federation and World Cup organizing committee. But he said his personal wish is to stick to the executive committee's December decision, which called for the tournament to remain at 32 teams.

The South American football confederation (CONMEBOL) is angry at losing a World Cup qualifying place to Oceania, and has asked for 36 teams at the finals in Germany. In the past, the fifth country in the South American qualifying zone played off against the Oceania Zone winners for a place in the final. Now either Australia or New Zealand, or an upset Oceania Zone winner, is guaranteed a place in 2006. World Cup organizing committee president Franz Beckenbauer said he had no problems with a bigger tournament, believing it would not pose too much of a problem and would make little difference.

Meanwhile, a soccer official from Somalia has been ordered to pay damages to FIFA president Sepp Blatter after accusing the head of world football of offering bribes.

FIFA said Wednesday that a Swiss court in Meilen ordered Farah Addo to pay Blatter $75,000 in compensation, plus over $11,000 in legal costs. The court also upheld an injuction prohibiting Addo from repeating allegations that he was offered money to support Blatter in the 1998 FIFA presidential campaign.

In January, FIFA's disciplinary commission suspended Addo for two years, saying he had made unfounded allegations and undermined the interests of soccer.

In related news, FIFA has stopped making financial assistance program payments to the football associations of Somalia, Puerto Rico and Burundi. The aid was cut off because the recipients failed to supply a record of how the funds were used. The soccer associations of Nepal, Vietnam and Chile were given until April to provide more documentation on their finances or face a similar cut.