Upon reading this week that Gianni Infantino continues to push a 48 team world cup whilst at the latest FIFA council in Miami and pondering through the UEFA fixtures for the weekends Euro’s Qualifiers noting that Scotland have an away trip to Kazakhstan followed by a meaningless visit to San Marino… I thought to myself… Is international football actually dying on its arse here?
Of course there is no better tournament in football than the World Cup, there is no better tournament in European football than the Euros, but all this process of qualification to reach a tournament with almost half the teams that started in it seems a little pointless and long winded to me? What is the point of qualification when all it does is knock out the nations like the Faroe Islands and Vanuatu who never qualify for these tournaments anyway?
After being a part of England’s Nations League qualification in the stands I saw for myself first hand the success of a tournament that is short, straight to the point with every game meaningful and that is surely how we want international football to play?
So often people tell me they hate these international breaks that disrupt the regular domestic season flow and pair nations like England with attack verses defence tests against the minnows of Montenegro and Kosovo and I for one am fed up of watching it. In fairness Scotland have themselves to blame as a team ranked 40th in the world but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable for ‘ANY’ neutral football fan when they hear they are paired with the likes of Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino to simply fulfil UEFA’s calendar just because…
So rather than the near 8,000 mile round trip to Astana where nobody cares who wins or loses rather than 5 million Scots and a handful of football loving Kazakhstanis? Why don’t we save all that mileage and bring back proper derby matches for qualification by regionalising matches so that people can actually get to these games for starters. After all, Kazakhstan is not even in bloody Europe in the first place.
FIFA needs to reform international football to a meaningful tiered structure where the best teams play the best teams or their local rivals and by qualifying, they have the opportunity to play the other best teams, not just the ones that qualify because the tournament is so big that its made easy to do so?
FIFA is currently broken down through six confederations. UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, CAF, AFC & OFC… Well for starters we can get rid of OFC (The Australasian/Oceanian Confederation that doesn’t even include Australia because they moved to Asia in a bid to play competitive football).
The Americas need one tournament. Asia needs one tournament. Europe needs one tournament. Africa needs one tournament. And the World needs a World Cup, and why not an Olympics too? Other than that, why push it? You’ve heard the phrase too much of something is not always good? Leave the fans wanting more, and save the world in air fuel whilst we are at it?
So lets get to logistics… CONMEBOL has 10 members whilst CONCACAF has 41. I still like the ten team tournament they play in South America which means a lot to the teams involved during qualification. We must keep this as i’m a sucker for tradition. But with it, lets regionalise the North and Central American Qualification process with a further qualification process for the Caribbean and lesser ranked teams. The Copa America and Gold Cup can finally merge meaning no more guest appearances from Japan et al to make up the numbers.
Asia must merge with Oceania to end this painful slot almost guaranteed to New Zealand every four years now that Australia have made the transition to another confederation. In fact give them back Kazakhstan. Europe does not need them.
In Asia again the AFC can be split into 4 regional sections for qualification, meaning local derby matches and a more meaningful game for supporters to attend and watch. The Middle East, South China Sea Nations, OFC and those central and north could be drawn in separate hats to again reduce travel and the magnitude of carbon footprint that goes with it?
In Africa, from top to bottom qualification can be drawn from pots of North, South, East and West based nations. This also saves thousands of pounds in travel and lessens player fatigue through travelling hours on end especially from there club sides in Europe.
In Europe, the hottest contested confederation and smallest of all in size but biggest in depth of numbers. Let’s give those nations like Malta and Andorra another route to qualifying. Let them play for the minor nations tournament (so they at least have a chance of winning some silverware) with qualification from that allowing them to earn the right to play against the big boys? After all we only need the top 8 teams in each confederation participating in the World Cup, the top sixteen teams in each confederation playing in their continental championships finals, and lets leave it at that, because if a tournament is too lengthy and too long drawn out with too many poor teams, it will lose its kudos and people will lose interest until the later rounds meaning empty seats and un-watched television sets because people are becoming bored of too much football.
Let’s make international football great again by structuring it in a way that the best play the best, and remember… Sometimes less is more.