Few Feeling Friendly toward FIFA

by Nigel Assam

Not only has FIFA alienated its member football associations over the ongoing allegations of corruption and bribery within the organization, and the “re-election” of the only candidate on the ballot, Sepp Blatter, but soccer’s world governing body threatens to alienate Europe’s top clubs over the amount of international friendlies played. Currently, nations play 12 friendlies during the soccer calendar, but FIFA wants to increase this to 17, to make up for the lack of soccer in years when there is neither a World Cup nor a European Cup tournament. What compounds the anger is that FIFA did not even talk this over with the clubs.

As it is now, Europe’s top clubs don’t like the idea of friendlies — Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s manager, has called them a waste of time. Many managers see friendlies as threatening to the long-term physical health of their players, as well as an intrusion into a congested domestic schedule. For example, in the English Premier League, teams are required to play 38 games, besides competing in the domestic FA Cup and Carling Cup competitions. The top clubs — such as Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal — also compete in UEFA’s Champions League. Even though the game has become a squad game featuring a constant rotation of players, managers still would like to have as much time with their players and to plan for tough matches.

The only reason FIFA has friendlies is, really, money. Some have speculated that an increase in friendlies is all to benefit the smaller European nations that “are expected to draw more income from the centralised [sic] broadcast- and sponsorship-rights deal struck last year.” Soccer’s a money-making business and no doubt FIFA wants to capitalize as much as they can on this and do some redistribution while they’re at it. Sepp Blatter knows who to please. 

Right Field

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