Football’s biggest names would be banned from the World Cup if they played in a breakaway European Super League, FIFA president, Gianni Infantino confirmed yesterday, reports the Associated Press.
Infantino, speaking to a small group of reporters at FIFA headquarters, said the governing body would punish players at clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich if they left their national divisions to form a privately-owned league.
“Either you are in or you are out,” Infantino said, listing the World Cup, European Championship and national leagues as competitions players from breakaway teams could be excluded from. “This includes everything.”
Talk of a long-threatened super league was revived on Friday when Der Spiegel published confidential documents and emails from clubs and football bodies in its ‘Football Leaks’ series.
Real Madrid was revealed to be working with consultants on a 16-team Super League to kick off in 2021 – effectively replacing the Champions League and outside the control of UEFA.
The plan called for 11 storied clubs from Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France to get ownership stakes and risk-free Super League membership for 20 years, with five more clubs from those countries invited to play.
The breakaway from soccer’s historic hierarchy – FIFA, the six continental bodies and 211 national federations – would allow officials to ban players from major competitions, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“The idea is if you break away, you break away. You don’t keep one foot in and one foot out,” said FIFA legal director, Alasdair Bell. “That would be the general approach we would follow, but of course lawyers can debate this for a long time.”
Both Infantino and Bell were long-time staffers at UEFA, which has steadily changed Champions League prize money and entry rules to favour elite clubs and stall breakaway threats.
“This is the history of the last 20 years,” said Infantino, who has clashed this year with European football officials and club leaders over FIFA’s proposed Club World Cup project, which is funded by Japanese investor SoftBank.
Infantino said his plan – potentially featuring at least 12 European clubs in a 24-team lineup, and worth a promised £2.28 billion every four years – was a good alternative to a private closed league.
“The Club World Cup is the answer to any attempt to think even about any sort of breakaway leagues,’ he said.
Infantino insisted while the plan would be lucrative for clubs taking part, it also kept money in the football family. FIFA would use 25 per cent of revenue to share globally.
“If the price to pay is to give proper revenues to a club participating in a Club World Cup but this allows us to … give $1m (£760m) to Haiti who has nothing, or to Mongolia who has three time zones but only two football pitches, well then we should be I think doing that,’ he said.
A FIFA task force will assess a revamp of competitions, including a new event for all national teams played every two years. Infantino said he expects a decision in March when he chairs a FIFA Council meeting in Miami.
He also believes the latest breakaway threat will calm.
“People are still quite reasonable,’ Infantino said. ‘I trust certainly the club owners and presidents to be able to have a discussion.”
AWCON 2018: Dennerby Out To Prove Doubters Wrong
The 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) kicks off in Ghana this weekend. Nigeria’s Super Falcons will be defending the AWCON title won two years ago in Cameroon, seeking to add another triumph to their past accolades.
The continent’s most successful national team almost by rote, they go into the tournament once again as massive favourites. This makes the continued lip service paid to them somewhat difficult to understand. Less than a fortnight ago, much to the chagrin of many in the industry, the team embarked on the final leg of preparation in Abidjan clad in casual mufti, looking very much like a rag-tag bunch hastily assembled at a moment’s notice.
It was a damning microcosm of the levity with which the nation’s women’s teams, and women’s football in general, is treated. Predictably, what followed was hand-wringing, apologies and a bizarre explanation centred on kits being stuck at customs.
While in Ivory Coast, the team proceeded to face the ASEC Mimosas’ under-16 Boys team. Undeniably the level of opposition the Nigeria Football Federation seems to believe the Falcons will have to contend with in Ghana. However, it all rankles on so many levels.
It seems, sometimes, the football authorities feel the need to put obstacles in the way of our own athletes. It is a weird, and unseemly way to foster resilience. Apologies are simply not good enough when nothing ever changes.
Besides, there is a feeling that this year’s edition might not be the foregone conclusion that it has always been.
The host country, Ghana will have the home support behind them and will draw confidence from their WAFU tournament victory earlier this year, even though that competition only permitted home-based players.
Cameroon and South Africa will also be competitive, but perhaps the biggest threat comes from Equatorial Guinea, who are the only other nation to have won this tournament previously. Though initially expelled after Kenya lodged a complaint about player eligibility, the two-time winners were re-admitted and will be precarious. They will compete out of Group B, same as the Falcons, and should both nations progress, it even sets up the prospect of a final rematch, a repeat of the riveting 2010 final which the Falcons won 4-2.
This implies that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Swedish manager Thomas Dennerby. He comes with some pedigree, having led Sweden to a third-place finish in the Women’s World Cup, but that was seven years ago. This job will be a far sterner examination of his abilities
He has the hardest job of anyone who has ever managed the Super Falcons. There is a suspicion that, with the outstanding record of success on the continent, just about anyone can coach the team to victory at an AWCON. As such, there will be a greater focus on the ‘How’ – his methods and the manner in which the team plays.
Like a curveball, the AWCON will serve as a FIFA Women’s World Cup eliminator, with the top three sides in Ghana earning a ticket to represent the continent next year in France. A quantum leap for Nigeria will also be expected on that front.
In terms of talent, Dennerby still has the finest assortment to choose from in the competition. If anything, he will face a bit of a headache when it comes to picking, especially in the forward positions where the likes of Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega will compete for positions. There is also the youngster Rasheedat Ajibade, highly rated and making her first appearance at an AWCON.
If Dennerby can bring them all together, it would go some way toward convincing his doubters, that his appointment has not simply been a waste of scarce resources. It would also give hope of better days to come.
SA Stadium Manager Worries That Nigerian Fans Will Outnumber Hosts
Despite the fact that the South African team will be hosts, reports have shown that Nigeria has a large presence in Johannesburg, and this has stirred up worry for Grobbelaar who acknowledged that their renowned love for football means they could throng the arena more than their hosts.
In their previous match against Seychelles, the South African team played in an almost empty stadium.
Grobbelaar has now admitted that the situation has led to awareness campaigns and offer of freebies, to ensure South Africans show the same zeal they give to matches between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
He admitted; “We are worried by the low numbers. We are playing against one of the best teams on the continent and our biggest rivals.”
NBBF Men’s League To Hold As Scheduled
The Nigeria Basketball Federation has said the men’s league will hold as scheduled despite two clubs – Gombe Bulls and Kwara Falcons – dragging it to an Abuja high court over their rights to represent the country in the FIBA Africa Zone 3 club championship.
Gombe and Falcons were the two finalists of the 2018 Kwese Premier Basketball League, which was organised by the Tijjani Umar faction of the NBBF.
But the NBBF under the leadership of Musa Ahmadu-Kida recently said it would organise an abridged league from November 13 to 17 to determine the country’s representatives in the tournament, which holds from November 20 to 25 in Benin Republic.
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