Dar es Salaam — Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) has warmly welcomed the decision by Fifa to expand the 2026 World Cup finals to 48 teams from 32, saying it is a positive step.

TFF secretary general Mwesigwa Celestin said yesterday that the decision would increase chances for Tanzania and other African teams to qualify for the finals.

The national soccer team, Taifa Stars, whose first ever appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations dates back to 1980 in Nigeria, have never appeared at the World Cup finals.

Mwesigwa said the new format would also allow the domestic game to develop with the extra finances that qualifying for the quadrennial football showpiece would bring.

“We are pleased with the news that the Fifa World Cup will expand to 48 teams from 2026,” he said.

He added: “This will also allow these nations to invest further in their footballing infrastructure and youth development, which in turn can yield significant social benefits.”

“Africa has more than 50 members in Fifa so, technically, the continent contributes about 25 per cent of the total number (of members). This means Africa will be immediate beneficiaries of the move.”

Yesterday, Fifa’s ruling council unanimously approved an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, in a major coup for the body’s president Gianni Infantino.

In a bid to widen the game’s global appeal and enrich its coffers, the Fifa panel endorsed a format with 16 groups of three nations, a tweet from Fifa’s official account said.

The move represents the first major change to the World Cup since the tournament was boosted from 24 to 32 teams for the 1998 tournament in France.

Critics strongly oppose the move and it was branded a “money grab and power grab” by New Fifa Now, a group campaigning for reform of the scandal-tainted Fifa.

Infantino took over the body 11 months ago with a vow to repair the damage done at the end of Sepp Blatter’s tenure by growing football across the globe.