The Club World Cup Has Lost Its Purpose

The FIFA Club World Cup is no longer a proper measure to decide the best club team in the world.

Because of huge investments in European soccer in the last decade the European clubs (UEFA) have a big money advantage over the rest of the world and can buy the best players which gives them a big advantage over the other confederations. Moreover, the format of the tournament is set to favor UEFA and South America (Conmebol) which is unfair to the other teams.

The problem is that the competition has failed to keep up with changes in the game and has therefore lost its relevance and purpose.

PURPOSE OF THE TOURNAMENT

The competition was started in 2000 (when it absorbed its predecessor the Intercontinental Cup) and was formed as a yearly competition to showcase the best local talent from the various confederations. The idea was that the winners in each continental tournament would compete against each other and the winner crowned as the best club team in the world. This was the theory but in practice it has turned out differently.

Previously the best non-European players pursued their careers in their home countries and were unknown to foreign audiences. The Club World Cup gave these players a chance to showcase their skills on the world stage and at that time there was parity between clubs in Europe and South America.

Conmebol teams won the trophy in the first three years of the competition but after that the European teams dominated and the balance of power shifted to Europe.

DAVID vs GOLIATH

The beginning of European domination coincided in the early part of the current century with a massive influx of investment in UEFA soccer at club level. The fallout from this is that today there is a great disparity of income between European clubs and the other confederations.

The winner of the European Champions League earns much more money than the other continental tournaments combined. Real Madrid made $70.1 million last season for winning the UEFA Champions League. In contrast San Lorenzo made $6.1 million for winning Copa Libertadores (Conmebol), ES Setie made $1.8 million for winning the African (CAF) Champions League and in Asia Western Sydney Wanderers made about the same for defeating Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal over two legs (YAHOO SPORTS – Why does the Club World Cup still struggle for relevance?; by Peter Staunton, December 12, 2014).

With such money on hand, the best talent that money can buy are in Europe’s major leagues, lured by the lucrative contracts that these leagues have to offer. This means that Europe has at its disposal its own talent and whatever the rest of the world has.

The biggest losers in the exodus of soccer talent to Europe are Brazil and Argentina which are the leading exporters of players, so what is Europe’s gain is South America’s loss.

Accordingly, every other side at the Club World Cup is at a disadvantage in comparison with Europe’s Champions League holder. The tournament has evolved from being a rivalry into a battle of David versus Goliath, between European clubs represented by what is tantamount to a World eleven made up mostly of the best international players and the minnows, comprising what is left over after the best of their talent have been siphoned off by the big UEFA clubs.

The current champion, Real Madrid, is a combination of some of the most expensive and best international players coming from Spain (Casillas and Sergio Ramos), France (Benzema and Varane), Portugal (Ronaldo and Pepe), Germany (Kroos), Brazil (Marcelo), Colombia (Rodriquez), Wales (Bale) and Mexico (Chicharito). This assembly of players is hardly representative of the local game in Spain. For three players, namely, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriquez the club paid $367.8 million. Only twelve clubs in the world possess a squad of players whose market value is worth more than the total cost of these three.

Compare that to Auckland City FC one of its competitors in this year’s Club World Cup which is a team of mere amateurs having full-time occupations outside of soccer.

A look at some of the previous champions reveals the heavy foreign component of their squads. In 2010 when Inter Milan (Italy) won the cup, only 5 players in their squad of 23 were Italians while the rest were mostly from South America. Even the television commentators failed to keep up with the changes as they still referred to the Inter team as ‘the Italians’.

In 2011 Barcelona won the cup and 10 of their 23-man squad were from overseas.

BIZARRE FORMAT

Another big problem with the tournament is that teams from UEFA and South America are given a bye to the semi-finals and start playing even after some of the sides are eliminated. This is intentionally done so that only the biggest clubs face off in the final. So far only teams from those two continents have won and only one team from outside has made it to the final, namely, last year’s surprise finalist TP Mazembe, a Congolese side.

Given the money advantage enjoyed by UEFA and the bizarre format that is currently in place, the Club World Cup can hardly be called the fairest of competitions and the winner cannot legitimately be called ‘the best in the world’ anymore than the winners of the former Intercontinental Cup which was limited to UEFA and Conmebol. The tournament has lost its importance and is hardly bragworthy. Some years ago I won a dancing contest but the other contestants couldn’t dance, so was my victory something to brag about?

Some parity needs to be restored to the competition. Brazil and Argentina have started to raise wages in their local leagues to entice their players to remain at home. That is a start but in addition to that, FIFA must limit the number of foreign players available to each team to, say, two and change the format so that all competing teams play the same number of qualifying matches. Failing this, it is pointless to continue the competition in its present form.

Victor A. Dixon

December 23, 2014

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Lionel Messi the Successor of Diego Maradona

Lionel Messi was born in Rosario city on June 24, 1987. He started playing football at the age of five for Grandoli, a club coached by his father. Messi switched to Newell’s Old Boys in 1995. At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Every month Messi required treatment for the illness that cost over 500 Pounds. River Plate showed interest in Messi’s progress, but did not have enough money to pay for his treatment. FC Barcelona was made aware of Messi talent. After watching him play, Barcelona signed him and offer to pay for the medical bills if he was willing to move to Spain.

Messi is a player with exceptional quality. He is highly creative, and has the skills to take on defenders with ease. He is a versatile left-footed player who can play either in the middle or on either wing, or even as a centre forward. Messi makes up for the lack of height with his speed and agility. His sudden changes in pace make him a true problem for the defenders. In addition, his accurate powerful shot make him truly unique in free kick and corner situations. He has drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona, and indeed Maradona himself named Messi his “successor”.

In club football, Messi made his debut against Espanyol on October 16, 2004, becoming the third-youngest player ever to play for FC Barcelona and youngest club player who played in La Liga at that that time (a record broken by team mate Bojan Krkic in September 2007). He scored his first senior goal against Albacete Balompié on May 1, 2005. Messi was 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old at that time, becoming the youngest player to ever score in a La Liga game for FC Barcelona until 2007 when Bojan Krkic broke this record.

Messi won the Under 20 World Cup in Holland with Argentina. He was crowned the leading goalscorer and voted best player in the tournament. Aged 18 years, he had become one of the hottest properties in the world game. Shortly after, he made his first full international appearance in a friendly against Hungary. In 2005, José Pekerman called Messi up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut on August 17, 2005 against Hungary. He was sent off in the 63rd minute, just 40 seconds after he came in as a substitute. The referee found Messi to have elbowed defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi’s shirt. He left the pitch disappointed and in tears.

Since then, Lionel Messi has developed into a more complete and mature player. There are still many years left in his career. Everyone is waiting for him to emulate Diego Maradona success by guiding Argentina to win the World Cup again.

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Follow the Gaudi Trail to Barcelona

Barcelona is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This is perhaps not surprising considering it is also the birthplace of famous Catalan architect, Antonio Gaudi. The Modernist style work of Gaudi can be experienced all over the city in its buildings and parks. Indeed, even the most cultured of individuals would perhaps agree that this is the perfect way to experience this popular Spanish metropolis.

The most visited piece of Gaudi’s sights in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, or the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, as it is also known. The Sagrada Familia is a massive church built in a neo-gothic style, where Gaudi devoted over 15 years of his life to building this temple of faith. Interestingly, it is still under construction despite work beginning in 1882; however, it is scheduled for completion in 2026. This is perhaps the best place to start your Gaudi tour, as you can sample the eccentricities of Gaudi’s style and vision in its full splendour.

If you are walking onto Passeig de Gracia, one of Barcelona’s main streets, then this should give you a further taste of Gaudi’s influence on the city. This wide boulevard is beautifully lined with trees and typical Spanish buildings, with but two exceptions; Battlo House and Mila House. These two buildings are only a few blocks apart on this grand avenue and easily stand out due to their engrossing features.

Batllo House was originally constructed as a terraced house similar to those surrounding it; however, Gaudi transformed it into the warped and eccentric facade that you see today, further displaying his creative architectural skills. Mila House was built on the request of the Mila family who sought a more extravagant example of Batllo House to live in. In response, Gaudi built two blocks of flats for his client, united by the same rippling facade. Much to the delight of tourists and genuinely interested fans of his work, you can visit both of these fine examples of Gaudi’s architectural prowess throughout the year.

Park Guell is another must-see spectacle – a famous garden complex designed by Gaudi. For those interested, trams and buses are widely available close by where you can be conveniently transported to this large park to fully explore its wonders. Park Guell largely consists of a ramshackle collection of paths, sculptures, aqueducts and reservoirs; moreover the warped, chequer-board style entrance staircase is a must see, as is the view from the top of the park over Barcelona.

There are a multitude of other Gaudi sights to take in as you walk around this wonderful city and from doing so you will soon realise why holidays in Barcelona are so popular for tourists and architectural fans alike.

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