President of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) Gianni Infantino gestures during a break at the 43rd CAF General Assembly, on March 12, 2021 in Rabat (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)
President of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) Gianni Infantino gestures during a break at the 43rd CAF General Assembly, on March 12, 2021 in Rabat (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

A biennial World Cup will taint prestige of the spectacle

By Matshelane Mamabolo Time of article published Sep 13, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - IT would no longer have that novelty about it, would it?

The Fifa World Cup being played every two years as is being suggested would kill the special nature of the tournament. Think about it.

What makes the World Cup such a special event? It is the wait, right?

Don’t you enjoy that four-year period between the different editions of football’s ultimate event? I mean, there’s that one year of reminiscing about the tournament that’s just ended before we start looking ahead to the qualifiers for the next.

And just like now with the qualification process for Qatar 2022, there’s nearly a year of quality competitive football as the countries strive to book their tickets to the finals. There are debates as to whether particular players are good enough to be in the squad and team, and arguments about the coaches’ playing system make for riveting anticipation of the matches.

Once the qualification process has been completed, there’s a full year of build-up to the main tournament.

There are friendly internationals as the countries ready themselves for the big event, and the Confederation Cup.

That’s the precursor to the World Cup in which continental champions clash as the country that will host the big event checks its readiness to welcome the world.

Our appetite for top class international football now whetted, the tournament arrives and for a month we are engrossed in the Beautiful Game as nations contest the right to be called the champions of the world. It’s a lofty position they will get to enjoy for the next four years, the winning country’s players seeing their status enhanced and thus getting the chance to cash in as top clubs jostle for their services.

And then the process starts again – the four-year cycle of arguably a single sport’s greatest spectacle that has enthralled us and got us delightedly counting down to the next.

But wait. They want to change that. They want to feed us this delight every second year. Imagine Christmas every six months. It just wouldn’t be Christmas would it?

Some things are just better waiting for. And the World Cup is one of those. Isn’t it that the longer you wait to get something, the more desirable it becomes?

But in these times of instant gratification that we are living in, are you surprised that they want to have it biennially?

Of course, the suits at Fifa and many of those who are pro the idea of a biennial World Cup are all about making more money.

And it is because of the financial gains to be made that I am afraid the idea of having the beautiful game’s ultimate tournament played biennially could well materialise.

Forget that 22 national federations voted against the idea when only six approved it the other day. The fact that a feasibility study on the idea was approved on a 166-22 vote tells you that there’s an appetite for it.

The World Cup is a cash cow for participating countries, with those who qualified for Russia 2018 for example getting a share of the $400m

US financial shot in the arm. And we all know the financial greed that drives the many men (and few women) who run football in the world.

The idea of receiving that windfall, meant for the development of the game in their countries but often ending up in their personal bank accounts, is sure to appeal to many.

I can already see just about all of the CAF national federations supporting the idea, the men who run the game on our continent already imagining the prospects of traversing the world every two years to be wined and dined while staying at luxury hotels for a month while watching football. Ditto for the likes of CONMEBOL, Asia and Oceania.

That Uefa are against the idea has a lot to do with them being the dominating confederation of the game.

It is actually the fact that their competitions (the Champions League in particular) have somehow begun to take over the status of the world’s premier football competition that Fifa are pushing for this World Cup change.

Call it a turf war if you wish, as Fifa tries to re-establish itself as the ultimate power in the game by having their premier competition in our faces more regularly.

Uefa have threatened to not honour the World Cup if it is moved to being played every two years.

The dominant confederation in Fifa in terms of playing power, their absence from the tournament is sure to diminish the lustre of the event and Fifa would definitely not want that.

You’d think that with all the complaints of there being too much football that sees many top stars often tired when there are international competitions, the plan would be to limit that.

But no, there’s a plan afoot to have them playing the ultimate tournament every two years.

The logistics of it would be pretty interesting and Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal coach, is working at ways to reshape the football calendar around holding the World Cup biennially in his capacity as Fifa head of Global Football Development.

It is a silly idea that I foresee tarnishing the value of the competition and taking away the novelty that it currently has being played every four years.


IOL Sport

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