Will a World Cup every two years divide football?

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Arsene Wenger appears to be the new knight in FIFA’s crusade for a world of football that’s supposed to be fairer and better. “Personally, I would say that every talent deserves a chance in life, and that’s not the case today,” said the 71-year-old Frenchman, once a coaching icon at English Premier League club Arsenal. “If you were born with the same talent but in Yaoundé, London or Hanoi, you don’t have the same chances of becoming a great footballer.”

With these words, Wenger, now an official of FIFA, promoted a controversial plan that has the potential to divide the football world: a biennial World Cup. To keep players from being overworked, Wenger is aiming for a single, but longer, period each year in which clubs must send players to play for national teams. The number of qualifying and friendly matches will be reduced.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants a decision on the project by the end of the year. The model could be introduced from 2025, as the current global match schedule stretches through the end of 2024.

When was the biennial World Cup first offered?

The idea is not new. Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter mentioned it in 1999. According to Blatter, the conventional rhythm of the World Cup dates back to the 1930s, “when teams still roamed from continent to continent by boat”.

The suggestion was dismissed as a crazy idea and went to the FIFA drawer – where Blatter’s successor Gianni Infantino dug it up again and put the blame on Wenger, its director of global football promotion. . The official mandate came last May, when the FIFA Congress, at the request of Saudi Arabia, approved a feasibility study on the two-year cycle of the World Cup.

What do the fans think?

A survey of some 23,000 people from 23 countries found a “majority of fans” in favor of a more frequent World Cup, according to FIFA. The poll asked if the World Cup should be played every year, every two, three or, as now, every four years. However, it is only when the votes for the three alternative models are added up that the majority announced by the world governing body emerges. The current four-year cycle topped the survey across all continents, with only Africa sharing the top spot with every two and every four-year options, each with 35 percent of the vote.

According to FIFA, a second survey is already underway with more than 100,000 people questioned in more than 100 countries.

How football legends help the cause of FIFA

FIFA hosted the presentation of the new World Cup model in Doha, Qatar in early September, like a company that wants to launch a revolutionary new product “FIFA Legends” from Wenger’s task force , including former World Cup winner Ronaldo. (Brazil), Sami Khedira (Germany), Marco Materazzi (Italy), Youri Djorkaeff and David Trezeguet (both in France), brought a lot of glamor to the event.

Critical statements have not been heard from these ex-stars, on the contrary. “A World Cup is always great. We want more. The fans want more spectacle,” said former World Cup champion Ronaldo.

UEFA’s stake with a biennial World Cup

The European football confederation feels duped by FIFA. UEFA said it had not been involved in the consultation process and even threatened to boycott the World Cup. With “unfounded promotional slogans”, FIFA could not eliminate the “serious concerns” of Europeans. The association spoke of “the dilution of the value of the world’s No. 1 football event” and warned, among other things, that women’s tournaments would be “deprived of exclusive slots and overshadowed by the proximity of the best men’s events”.

The German Football Association (DFB) backed UEFA’s criticism and cited a threat to “the financial security, stability and sustainability” of European associations. After all, these associations benefit from the UEFA slot machine, which allows its members’ money to flow with its own competitions.

“It is certainly not about the well-being of football or the players, but simply the interest of grabbing as much of this football financial pie as possible,” said Professor Harald Lange, German sports scientist. at the University of Würzburg. DW. According to him, the great players “want to make as much money as possible from football and, of course, to make sure that the others do not take the bigger chunks”.

FIFA’s revenue for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar in 2022 is expected to reach around € 4 billion and € 11 billion for the 2026 World Cup in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Where are the other football confederations?

Besides the Europeans, the South Americans have also clearly positioned themselves against World Cups every two years. “The situation would be extremely difficult with the proposed change. It could even endanger the quality of other tournaments, both club and international,” CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, said in a statement. “There is no sporting justification for reducing the time period between World Cups.”

But the other four continental football federations are open to a different World Cup schedule. “We will continue to consider these proposals constructively, with an open mind and in a spirit of positive engagement,” said CONCACAF, the confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

The Asian Federation AFC and the African Federation CAF also welcomed the discussion on “what is in the best interest of football and our stakeholders on all continents of the world”, as CAF said. The president of the influential South African federation, Danny Jordaan, was more explicit, telling the Sunday World newspaper: “The point is that the establishment of the current World Cup qualifying system was established during the period of colonial rule. Now colonialism is long gone and the countries of the continent have sovereign independence, and yet the pattern is still the same and alive. “

The Oceania Confederation (OCF) has not hidden its sympathy for a new World Cup pace either. It is about “bridging the gap in competitive football between Oceania and the other confederations,” he said.

What happens next

The decision on a possible new number of World Cup final titles will be taken by the FIFA Council, the highest body of the world’s governing body, chaired by President Infantino. The declared opponents of the reform, UEFA and CONMEBOL, currently represent only 14 of the 37 members, so they need allies. Otherwise, the vote could well end like in 2017, when Infantino inflated the field of participants from 32 to 48 teams from the 2026 World Cup against the will of the Europeans.

But football expert Lange doesn’t think that will happen: “There will be a lot of noise and power play and in the end it will probably stay the same as before.”


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