The year 2017 began with a bang when the big decision was made regarding the FIFA World Cup. Yes, we now will have 48 teams competing for the Jules Rimet trophy in 2026. The new format starts with the 48 teams playing one another in 16 groups of three. Then, the top two teams from each group will advance into a 32-team group for the knockout stage.
The FIFA World Cup is known to be the grandest stage in a footballer’s career. Kids dream to one day become superstars of their nation. Every generation needs to inspire the next. Yes it now gives the minnows a great chance to pit themselves against the best. And with that the fame and glory will just naturally be bestowed upon them if there is an upset.
Look at what Iceland achieved; a nation that is covered with ice 8 months of the year, dared to dream and turned non followers into fanatics. But in all this ‘positive’ approach by the governing body, it does lose the charm. You are diluting the competitiveness of the sport. There is also a gamble on the spectators coming over to watch a match like Algeria v Cambodia.
You make the fans believe that the standard of play in the early stages will be lower and in the long run, will decrease interest and involvement in the tournament from all the stakeholders.
(Image source: pexels)
Talking about the group stage means one less match. Now you find yourself in one of the 16 groups. How will this affect people who travel to the games? Two matches and you’re out? Is it value for money?
This will add more fuel to the fire when it comes to club versus country debate. How do I protect my players from getting injured or worse? Should they represent in a non World Cup tie? The Premier League that average at least 70 games including friendly games during the pre season, which also include qualifiers for the next big tournament.
The qualification is now a mockery, with big teams knowing that there are more places and chances to ease through to the finals. It is also a slap on the face of the smaller, lesser known countries, where FIFA has decided to lower the standards, so it truly becomes a global event.
Finally, there is every chance of not-so financially strong countries of betting against their team to shave points so they get a better pay off. Referees, officials will start wetting their beaks.
Yes, change is necessary in any sport, to keep the brand fresh, exciting and moving with the times.
Yes, the FIFA is looking at exploring foreign markets and make football as the number sport across all continents.
Yes, ultimately is boils down to making MONEY for more improvements, at all levels.
Yes, you want football to be on everyone’s TV set, handheld devices, radios and so on.
But increase the number to 36 or 40 at the maximum. 48 is too big of a number and more importantly if you want to include the minnows, the amount of money that needs to pumped in is enormous.
ONE STEP A TIME, ONE GOAL AT A TIME – is what I believe FIFA, the governing body should aim for.