As Good As It Gets?
Other commitments meant that I was unable to bring you the low-down on Pachuca and Etoile Sportive De Sahel ahead of their World Club Cup match. Somehow, it still registers as a surprise that the African champions should be able to see off the champions of Central and North America, but it happened when the Tunisians beat the Mexican club 1-0. This result didn’t surprise me in the slightest. Etoile beat the Egyptian giants Al Ahly over two legs in the final of the CAF Champions League earlier this year (there’s a tremendous article on this in this month’s “When Saturday Comes” – if you’re not already a subscriber to it, you should be), and that would be a massively difficult tie for any club in the world. That they should beat the champions of a region that largely consists of MLS and Mexico doesn’t strike me as a massive surprise.
I touched on this before, but it is something that I wished to return to, and now seems as good a time as any. For all their talk of wanting to “reform” world football, the big European clubs actually want nothing of the sort. The last thing that G14 would actually want would be to be shown up by the CAF champions in the quarter finals of the World Club Cup. Football is now driven by the interests of a global audience, and the UEFA Champions League is one of the most valuable commodities in the sporting world. This underpins the regular trashing that the World Club Cup takes. Everyone in Europe – the football clubs, the media, UEFA themselves – has everything invested in its perpetual success and this is being marketed to the whole of the world. Cometh the World Club Cup, and what happens? The African champions beat the rich, white men from Central and North America. The Europeans lose to the South Americans. It serves everyone in Europe very conveniently to call the World Club Cup “a joke of a tournament” when they get dumped on their backsides by South American champions yet again.
It happens that FIFA help to propagate this myth, through the structure of the competition. If FIFA wants to be seen to be serious about the redistribution of wealth in football, it should do the following:
1. Get rid of the current format of the World Club Cup. All it does is play into the hands of G14 and UEFA to the detriment of the rest of the football world. UEFA and European money sucks money, talent and resources out of poorer confederations. How much more of a level playing field would global football be if African clubs had half a chance of keeping hold of some of the best African players, rather than them emigrating to the Belgian second division at the earliest opportunity? How much healthier would Asian football be if the money spent on the Premier League and Champions League was spent on domestic football there?
2. Stop playing it in the middle of December. FIFA should realise that this plays into their detractors. They should abandon the Confederations Cup (my word, what a waste of time that tournament is) and let World Cup host countries use the World Club Cup as a practice tournament.
3. They should expand it to 16 teams. I would propose the following – four teams from UEFA (the two finalists from the Champions League, the winners of a third/fourth place play-off in the Champions League and the winners of the UEFA Cup), four teams from South America (the two finalists from the Copa Libertadores, the winners of a third/fourth place play-off in the Copa Libertadores and the winners of the Copa Sudamericana), the two finalists from the CONCACAF (Central and North America), CAF (Africa), AFC (Asia) Champions Leagues, one team from Oceania and a team from the host country (which won’t be Japan every year from 2009 on).
I trust that I can depend on your votes when I challenge Sepp Blatter at the next FIFA elections.