Ireland the victims of FIFA favouritism
October 20, 2009
Oh how the sport’s governing bodies get on my nerves. First, we see UEFA backing down to the big clubs in the diving furore, and now it’s FIFA’s turn.
All the way through the World Cup qualifying, we were told that the draw to the play offs would be unseeded, an old fashioned winner-takes-all draw with no benefits to anybody. Now, FIFA notice that Portugal, France and Russia have missed out on first place in their groups so they move the goalposts.
What happens? The Irish get the most difficult available task of course: the French. Obviously, Ireland could have drawn France anyway but there was an air of inevitability about the draw being made from the moment Sepp Blatter made his seeding announcement.
There were two arguments given by FIFA as to why they took this decision. The first is a footballing reason. Blatter claimed a World Cup could not be the same without the ‘big guns’ of World football. Maybe not, but if the ‘big guns’ aren’t good enough to qualify that’s just hard cheese isn’t it? It’s not like the goal posts are moved so that Northern Ireland, Wales or the Faroes have a better chance, why should things change for Portugal?
The second idea is that it was a purely commercial decision. This theory seems to think that for some reason, sponsors will pull out without the likes of Ronaldo and co in the competition. Yeah right. This is the biggest tournament in the world’s most popular game. If one sponsor wants to pull out, let them. There will be about 20 others willing to take their place.
Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni was quick in his condemnation for Blatter’s idea, urging him to reassess his priorities or face the ‘death of football’. Ireland keeper Given also criticised the plan, calling it ‘disgusting’. In a withering attack, Given raged at the timing of Blatter’s announcement, coming with just two games remaining in the qualifying stage.
“There are people high up in delegations, and maybe their countries need a hand to qualify. The rules should be laid out clearly before any ball is kicked and then there’s no dark cloud or whatever. It’s ridiculous how they can make a decision now when some of the big-name nations are maybe struggling to qualify. It’s totally unfair on the smaller nations. It’s pretty disgusting, to be honest. To change it at this stage is beyond belief. It’s crazy and I don’t know how they have got away with it or how the smaller nations like ourselves haven’t put up a bigger fight. All the nations should try to kick up a fuss, not just us, because I don’t believe it’s right.”
And of course, he’s right. For too long now have football draws favoured big nations, and big clubs. The Champions League, the greatest club tournament on Earth, is now also the most boring tournament on Earth as the last 8 (or even the last 4) is painfully predictable.
It’s time for a shake up. If you weren’t good enough to qualify for a major competition by winning your group, then the back door should be closed until you unlock it yourself. And for the sake of the game, Blatter must be made to see this. He’s announced he’s running for a fourth term in 2011, but federations should refuse to nominate him until he understands this fundamental error in his leadership.
And as for the Champions League, all seedings should be thrown out the window, along with country protection. Can you imagine a group featuring Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona? Now THAT’S European football.
As always, your comments are greatly appreciated.