Sports

FIFA Proposes a Biennial World Cup

By: Latifa Waithera Zain

Countries worldwide are currently battling it out for a place in one of the most prestigious international tournaments, the FIFA World Cup. Along with hosts Qatar, four-time World Cup champion Germany and Euro 2020 semifinalist Demark are the first teams to book their spot in the 2022 World Cup. 

The 2022 World Cup has been controversial for many reasons, including the vote-buying allegations and the temperature concern leading to air-conditioned stadiums. Let’s not forget the fact that there was widespread exploitation of laborers building the World Cup stadium in Qatar, which has led to high numbers of deaths due to extreme heat and workplace accidents. The Qatar World Cup has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. 

Despite concerns about next year’s World Cup, FIFA wishes to increase the frequency of the tournament from every four years to every two years, causing mixed reviews. 

“I’m all for the idea,” said Callie Wilson, a club soccer player, and sophomore sports management major. “It’s more exciting, and I feel like it would be more fun for everyone. I’ve always loved watching the World Cup, and four years felt too long.” 

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger currently serves as FIFA’s chief of global development. It was his suggestion to have a World Cup every two years, mimicking the setup of the UEFA Nations League.

“I think every two years would gather more revenue and income for FIFA,” said Nola Myers,  soccer player, and sophomore graphic design major. 

According to FIFA, staging the World Cup every two years would improve talent globally and raise more money to fuel development programs. However, CONMEBOL, a South American soccer body, believes otherwise. 

“There are no reasons, benefits, or justification for the change promoted by FIFA. Because of  this, the ten countries that makeup CONMEBOL confirm that they will not participate in a World Cup organized every two years,”​​ said a statement by CONMEBOL.

CONMEBOL held an in-person meeting in Paraguay on Oct. 27 with its ten member countries, including Argentina and five-time World Cup champion Brazil, where they came to their consensus.  

“The project in question turns its back on almost 100 years of world football tradition, ignoring the history of one of the most important sporting events on the planet,” said the CONMEBOL council in their statement. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UEFA are other soccer organizations that strongly oppose the biennial World Cup. 

“Players are already being overworked as it is,” said Shreeya Patel, sophomore criminology major. “Having the World Cup every two years is going to add more problems to their fitness levels.” 

Since the pandemic began, soccer players haven’t exactly had much of a break. The 2019/20 Champions League final was held on Aug. 23, and the 2020/21 season began just two weeks after with multiple international breaks to help teams prepare for the Euro 2020, which started just two weeks after the 2020 Champions League Final. 

Barcelona and Spain international Pedri played over 1000 minutes of international soccer during the Euro 2020 and the Olympics. He was part of the Spain Euro 2020 team that went all the way to the semi-finals on July 6 before joining the Spain U23 team at the Olympics a few weeks later. The 18-year-old was then back for Barcelona on Aug. 15 in their La Liga win against Real Sociedad. 

Pedri is just one example of how players have been overworked as of recently. In April, Pep Guardiola, Manchester City Manager, complained that UEFA and FIFA were “killing” the players with their cramped schedule and lack of breaks. 

This season, players in Europe have been hard at work with their League games, UEFA club competitions, UEFA Nations League, World Cup qualifications, and preparation for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). AFCON will be held in Cameroon starting on Jan. 9 with players like Mohammed Salah, Perrie Aubameyang, Sadio Mane, and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy set to participate.

“No player can sustain, not just the physicality, but also the mentality to be ready every day to compete against opponents and win the game,” said Guardiola. 

Players are increasingly speaking out about the stress of their schedule, with Real Madrid and Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois being one of the most recent to do so. 

“It’s just a money game, and we have to be honest about it,” said Courtois. 

The Athletic reported earlier this month that the current UEFA Nations League and World Cup champions France were not opposed to Wenger’s suggestions. A meeting will be held in December, but nothing indicates that FIFA has the proper backing to go through with its plans. 

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