IS anyone else getting Ernst Blofeld-vibes from Gianni Infantino, more so recently than normally?
The head of Fifa has a new-but-old idea stuck in his head and has been talking it up in a massive PR push to win over the organisation’s members, various continental powerblocks, clubs and fans.
Infantino is insisting on a biennial World Cup, saying this week that: “The prestige of an event depends on its quality, not it’s frequency. You have the Super Bowl every year, Wimbledon or the Champions League every year, and everyone is excited and waiting for it.” Eww…
One could counter-argue easily with “too much of a good thing can be bad,” and when it comes to the World Cup – any World Cup – less is certainly more.
Admittedly, it might be a bit harsh equating Infantino to a Bond villain – after all, 122 members voted “yay” to investigate the validity of a World Cup every two years, but as the face of the organisation, the Swiss-Italian is the man who represents his constituents.
Now, having a biennial World Cup will certainly give agency to international games, but surely it isn’t the only way to develop the sport across the globe. The recently concluded Uefa Nations League seems to me the perfect way to grow the sport further and give meaning to those “international friendlies” that are only good for ranking points.
It is a concept still in its infancy, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that such a tournament could be the perfect draw to keep supporters engaged and generate new growth in the game.
The biggest concern that Fifa’s move could engineer, in my opinion, is increasing the immense workload that the elite players are already under.
Already the past week, Belgium international and Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois argued: “We are not robots. It’s just more and more games, and less rest for us and nobody cares about us. When will we get a rest? Never.”
And I tend to agree with him, even if some have called it a whine, and had some more cheese with their whine after he said it. For clubs that spend billions of rands on players, the risk, with very little reward, falls squarely on them as well.
Professional sport is one hell of a taxing endeavour to undertake, and already the football calendar is packed with fixtures. Leagues run for 10 months, pre-season a month more, and before that, there is a period of training to prepare for those games.
In-between, players must commit to international matches, continental tournaments, and if you win one of those, a further batch of fixtures at the Club World Cup; which, by the way, Fifa also wants to change by introducing more teams and matches.
Squeezed around this already congested schedule are Cup matches and international championships, and then if you qualify, a World Cup every four years.