You could see Sepp Blatter’s hands more obviously than Thierry Henry’s. With the less than able assistance of a bewilderingly lost Charlize Theron and the copper from ‘Allo ‘Allo, the draw for next year’s World Cup Finals dragged on for longer than the Eurovision Song Contest. It contained more rules and regulations than those used to ensure the daily running of the Large Hadron Collider.
On the Saturday after the tedious ping-pong ball extraction, The Guardian had a proposal. Mix the idea behind the UN Security Council with FIFA’s intention to represent the whole world in football, to invent in time for the Brazil World Cup a far wider and larger contest. In short, give automatic qualification spots to the best teams in the world rankings, to give “smaller” associations a better chance of getting to the finals. I say “smaller”, even when South Africa 2012 includes New Zealand and Slovakia, under achievers both.
On a world-wide basis, I cannot see this laudable suggestion being adopted. To be fair, FIFA really are not on the look-out to create an actual international footballing event, hence the urgency with which they sought to keep France and Portugal in the Finals in the closing stages of the European qualifying section.
However there are merits to changing the way international football competitions are organised, starting with the qualifying stages. I do wonder how frustrating it must be for a young boy waking up on the eve of his thirteenth birthday to the news from his parents that he is, sadly and tragically, a resident of the Faroe Islands and therefore will never witness decent football at any level throughout his entire life.
If this “Security Council” plan is to move forward, let us start small. UEFA will soon begin the qualification for Poland/Ukraine 2012. Rather than continue along the formulaic route of putting small and micro-nations into the same qualifying groups as England, France, or whichever other high achievers, could it be too much to ask for than a little out-of-the-box consideration? Give the smaller associations – Andorra, San Marino, Cyprus, Norn Iron, Luxembourg and so on – their own dedicated qualifying group with at least two guaranteed places in the Finals. On a world-wide context, such “small” countries as India, Pakistan, and Canada, and as such “obscure” states as Palestine, Israel, and Iraq, find it almost impossible to make it to the top table of FIFA’s corporate feast of football and merchandise. Maybe it is fluffy and idealistic to want an internationalist perspective, but given the aims of both FIFA and UEFA, why not allow more countries the chance to play competitive football at a higher level than they may otherwise have achieved?
Fading memories of Zaire and THAT free kick, or Kuwait and THAT half-time malaise, should ensure any future aims to help the smaller countries can be untarnished by such botherations as actual FACTS. And anyway, it would mean smaller television draws and no comedy Frenchman presenter.