By Samindra Kunti
September 10 – FIFA don’t do dissent, at least not when it comes to what it purports will be the ‘Football of Tomorrow’, the introduction of a biennial World Cup. In Doha, the world federation’s ultimate salesman Arsene Wenger rolled out plans for the tournament and a slate of legends nodded obediently in approval of what would be a dramatic overhaul of the match calendar.
At a news conference, FIFA’s director of development Wenger framed the idea of a biennial World Cup as organising the match calendar in a more efficient way, benefitting players, fans and the clubs.
He argued that Zurich wants quality over quantity, less travel for players, is “very conscious” of not increasing match load and is on “a mission to try and minimise the differences between the confederations.”
Wenger and FIFA want to introduce the biennial World Cup in 2028, but Wenger remained coy on the fate of Infantino’s expanded Club World Cup, which the proposed match calendar would struggle to facilitate.
He said: “We have decided to take care of the international calendar first. I have been asked by 166 countries how it would be possible to organise a World Cup every two years. When that is decided, we will come back to the Club World Cup and see – does it need to be changed?”
However, Wenger and FIFA believe they have the fans’ backing for their current revolution. The Frenchman added: “Fans demand meaningful games and we want to reply to that expectation.”
FIFA’s own fan survey has not been completed yet. The same is true of the feasibility study that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation proposed at Congress. The global governing body claims it started a consultation this summer to understand the appetite for its radical plans and that process included jetting in 80 legends of the game to the Qatari capital on Thursday. They joined FIFA president Gianni Infantino for a photo opportunity and Wenger for an “open conversation” according to Tim Cahill.
But that exchange must have been one-sided. Ronaldo, Peter Schmeichel and Tim Cahill, the three legends rolled out for a news conference alongside Wenger, embraced FIFA’s new pet project unanimously. The former Danish goalkeeper said that not a single FIFA legend objected to the idea of a more regular World Cup and added that he “would jump at the chance to qualify every two years.”
He said the 25-mandatory rest period was a big positive.
The salesmen were all on board – and not even the proposed frequency will diminish the World Cup’s stardust. Ronaldo said: “I have no doubts that the World Cup will continue to be the most prestigious event. The current calendar was conceived almost 100 years ago. The world completely changed since then and the speed with which information travels, all of that influences us and makes us think about the change of this format.”
The level of agreement among the legends, who FIFA claims are not remunerated for participating in the consultation and voicing their independent opinions, was striking. The biennial World Cup plans have prompted a lot of opposition from UEFA, the World Leagues Forum and national leagues, including the Russian Premier League which announced it opposed the plans on Thursday.
European supremo Aleksander Ceferin has warned that Europe and South America are prepared to boycott the biennial World Cup.
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