October 15 – When Arsene Wenger rolled out the bought and paid-for FIFA legends in Qatar to sycophantically support FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s unrelenting push for a biennial World Cup, he probably wasn’t expecting quite the backlash from football’s biggest stakeholders.
Nor would he have been expecting the criticism of the increasing numbers of World Cup winners and playing legends that aren’t a slave to the somewhat obsequious FIFA Legend merry-go-round and payroll.
Two more giants of the game came out against the biennial plan yesterday.
Former Italy national team captain Paolo Maldini, who is now technical director of AC Milan, told Italian press agency ANSA: “I do not think that playing the World Cup every two years is a good idea, this would take away the importance of the most unique sporting event in the world, cancelling a tradition that is now 100 years old. I hope, as a sportsman, that FIFA wants to abandon this wrong project.”
Maldini argued that not only would the national leagues suffer but so would player health and the plan posed a great risk to world football.
“The possible two-year commitment, added to the calendar proposed by FIFA that would bring together the stops for the national teams in only two dates, would have very negative consequences on the psychophysical health of the players and on the future of the domestic leagues, which would suffer a tremendous impact in an already very delicate moment,” said Maldini.
Writing in French paper L’Equipe, former captain of Bayern Munich and 2014 World Cup winner with Germany, Philipp Lahm, said the Infantino/Wenger plan “could lead to an overdose”.
“Shortening the World Cup cycle would make football seem like all about money. However, sporting events require patience and time. This is crucial for their sustainability,” argued Lahm.
“The football overflow would affect the supporters… Speeding up the cycles would make experiences and memories interchangeable. Rather, an annual tournament would be just one more social network on your cell phone or a new streaming app.”
Lahm also argued that players would feel the affect the most: “Playing for a national team is a special job. You play less for the money, more for the country and the people. There is a responsibility, and it is exhausting. I myself retired from the German selection (at 30) after my sixth tournament. I had decided it a long time before, because the double load is extremely intense.”
He also argued that the World Cup must remain more than just a business. “This is why the contrast offered by the national team is all the more important. It must always remain an element of the common good. A World Cup is more than a business. This is the place where everyone comes together: football creates a bond with the people.”
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