“The World Cup, after all, is the sport’s showpiece competition. Can football really afford for it to be devalued as it has tended to be in recent times?
“Shouldn’t we at least attempt to bring back the oomph and the pizzazz and the prime quality that criminals such as physical and mental fatigue and player burnout from too many matches as well as late injury have gradually stolen over the years?”
The following Letter to the Editor discussing a proposal to improve the quality of play in the World Cup was submitted to Wired868 by Francis Warner, a now retired teacher.
A friend visiting from England asked where he might find a clean cup.
“This is Trinidad,” I responded in jest. “We don’t have clean cops here!”
And that was when the idea hit me. FIFA too needs to find a clean cop, someone who will protect the image of the World Cup. We are talking about someone whose role is to serve the best interests of the tournament by ensuring the well-being of the world’s best players.
The World Cup, after all, is the sport’s showpiece competition. Can football really afford for it to be devalued as it has tended to be in recent times? Shouldn’t we at least attempt to bring back the oomph and the pizzazz and the prime quality that criminals such as physical and mental fatigue and player burnout from too many matches as well as late injury have gradually stolen over the years?
For instance, former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson has publicly said that, although England have an impressive squad on paper, they are not likely to win the World Cup; their players are simply too tired to produce their best. And second-best will NOT win the World Cup.
Every four years, the FIFA World Cup holds pride of place, showcasing as it in theory does, the best in the world. At the moment, however, what we have is for the most part the best players in the world generally well below their best. For the competition to really be football’s pièce de résistance, the best players would have to be firing on all pistons, well rested and at the peak of their mental, emotional and physical health.
The latest addition to the infamous list of international footballers injured within the last six weeks or so is Egypt’s, well, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah whom they loan for a few days at a time to Egypt… The Premier League’s top goal-scorer dislocated his shoulder in the UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday 26 May and is now racing against time to regain full fitness for Russia.
Will Egypt without Salah be the real Egypt? What percentage of the country’s potential World Cup efficiency—and attractiveness—will be lost if they must do without their star striker?
Unfortunately, UEFA is at present stronger than FIFA. And it is not alone in that regard. But the tail must not wag the dog. FIFA has to be strong and make clear that its bite is much worse than its bark. And there can be no cop out;
FIFA must insist on four things:
Firstly, all football bodies must be mandated to reduce the number of clubs in the top division in the season immediately preceding a World Cup. Since most international players play in the top divisions, this will reduce the number of domestic matches they have to play in World Cup year.
If, for example, the EPL had relegated four or five teams at the end of the 2016/17 season and promoted only the usual three, that could have cut the total number of games each team played by as many as four.
If, alternatively—for that season only remember, once every four years—the three bottom teams were demoted but there were no promotion, that means six games cut off each team’s fixtures list! And for good measure, Premier League teams would have a lighter FA Cup schedule, the lower divisions only battling among themselves in the early rounds.
Secondly, all club competitions must end at least two months before the start of the World Cup, by mid-April in the case of 2018.
Thirdly, this year, for example, 16 April to 30 April would have been an international-football-free fortnight. For all teams involved in the World Cup Finals, no friendlies, no team training, a mandatory two-week break to recharge batteries and recover from niggling injuries.
Finally, the international teams will be allowed full access to their players six weeks before the World Cup. Preparation for the event will then become the primary focus of players, coaches, staff, media, football fans, etc who can all give their undivided attention to the World Cup in the build-up to the Finals.
Of course, convincing UEFA and co to go along with all this would be a herculean task. Something like trying to convince the government in T&T that we need to get serious about fighting crime. Which is why FIFA needs a World Cup cop. It would have to be someone who not only wields tremendous power but who also enjoys the trust and confidence of the world football fraternity, someone with the stature of a Pele, a Michel Platini or a Franz Beckenbauer.
The trio named above aren’t exactly perceived as incorruptible so we may have better luck with one of this threesome: Sir Alex Ferguson, Bobby Charlton or Arsene Wenger. Maybe the best man for the job at the moment is the currently unemployed former Arsenal manager but even I can see my clear England bias.
Despite my reservations about current quality, however, I hope I am proven wrong and that in Russia we shall see many Gareth Bale-like moments and few of the Loris Karius variety.