Sport

The new FIFA president wants to ruin the World Cup

Posted by
David Cornish
Published

"For the Game. For the World."

That's the official slogan of FIFA, the international body charged with overseeing the organisation of international football tournaments.

Their mission statement expands on this, stating they exist to "develop football everywhere and for all, to touch the world through its inspiring tournaments and to build a better future through the power of the game."

So when FIFA president Gianni Infantino declares that he wants to see the World Cup expanded to include 48 teams, you make the logical leap as to how it links to this mission. 

We'd like to think that the 46-year-old Italian, who became FIFA president back in February after managing to prize Sepp Blatter's vice-like grip from the arms of the throne, outlined his idea in the following manner. Assume your best Italian accent, if you will:

"Right chaps, we want more of the world to participate in football, yeah? We want to touch the world with our inspiring tournaments, right? It's on the bloody website. So - what if we just added more teams? Exactly 16 of them.

"No, hear me out. We want more nations to get involved, more of the Asian and Eastern world, more tiny nations that never stand a chance of getting through qualifying? Before we have the full tournament of 32 teams, let's add a preliminary knockout stage of 32 teams playing in a winner-takes-all games. Those 16 winners then get lined up with 16 seeded teams to form the 32 of the final tournament. Great, yeah?"

The words he actually said weren't far off, stating to press that: "It means we continue with a normal World Cup for 32 teams, but 48 teams go to the party. Fifa's idea is to develop football in the whole world. The World Cup is the biggest event there is. It's more than a competition, it's a social event."

The idea will be debated by FIFA this month, before a decision is made in January.

We get it - if the World Cup is going to get the world excited about football, a body like FIFA is going to want to see nation's involved that don't usually come along to the 'party'. But it's this word - party- that hints at what an absolute shocker the final World Cup could turn out to be. 

Think of the fan of an unseeded nation who's keen to see their team play their way through the tournament; they buy the replica kit, the flag, the plane tickets, arrive in whichever nation has given FIFA enough unmarked envelopes of cash to host the tournament, settle themselves down for an all-out exciting winner-takes-all game to get through to the final 32 and sits through 90 minutes of painful, defensive-minded football.

No one wants to play an open, expansive, attacking game, because - as we saw with the tweaked version of the most recent Euros - if you change the rules to provoke more exciting football, you're just as likely to find teams playing a form of football that guarantees a nervy 1-0 win, or the lottery of penalties. Say you're Faroe Islands and you draw unseeded England, you're not going to let England try and play football, you're going to stick 11 men behind the ball, shut down their options, and hope like hell they fluff their lines at some point during the match. 

Should that fan see their team lose, that's the end of the tournament for them. Big 'footballing nations' with unseeded teams could lose all interest in the World Cup because their team won't even make the main event. That's clearly the gamble that Infantino is presenting to FIFA: yes, you might lose nations with heaps of TV viewers, but it gives a chance that smaller nations might finally get to see their teams turned over 7-0 when they play the likes of Germany. 

More football doesn't guarantee more good football. The Euros were supposed to give us loads of end-to-end games in the group stages, as plucky nations fought to out score their opponents and make it through with an impressive third place finish. Instead we witnessed a tournament of negative football. Now, that's not to say negative football is an invalid form of football. It's sensible football. It's the sort of football demanded by that kind of tournament structure. It's just that this new party promised by Infantino might turn out to be one of those crap, everyone stuck in the kitchen and no one drinking the punch parties. 

This is not an Englishman upset that his nation are likely to be eliminated in the new knockout stage (we're currently ranked 12th - surely we can't slip lower, right?). This is about shooting down a daft idea before international football becomes even less of a spectacle. 

Here's hoping FIFA make the right decision. They're a trustworthy bunch, right?

(Image: Rex)

Topics

Share this article

Author

David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

Related Posts