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Fifa will make money but a bigger World Cup will be a duller one

2017-1-11 11:45| 发布者: 悠儿| 查看: 86| 评论: 0

摘要: For the good of the game,” is Fifa’s slogan. But the global football authority’s decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026 is bad for the game. In fact, it is a perfect example of Fifa’ ...
For the good of the game,” is Fifa’s slogan. But the global football authority’s decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026 is bad for the game. In fact, it is a perfect example of Fifa’s interest clashing with that of neutral fans. Fifa will make more money and Gianni Infantino, its president, can expect grateful Asian and African federations to re-elect him in 2019. But even most Asian and African fans will suffer as football’s premier tournament slides into tedious mediocrity as a result of this decision.

In World Cups, to borrow the writer Kingsley Amis’s phrase, more means worse. In 1978 the World Cup featured only 16 teams. Since then ever more weak teams have been admitted. Most come to the tournament to defend, run around and foul. For fans, it is like watching someone spend 90 minutes parking a bus. Connoisseurs of these matters consider Ukraine-Switzerland in Cologne in 2006 (goalless until the penalty shootout) the nadir of 10,000 years of human civilisation, though Paraguay-Japan in Pretoria in 2010 (when goals were not merely absent but inconceivable) is another contender.

Last year’s Euro 2016 shows what happens when international tournaments expand — in the Euros’ case, from 16 teams to 24. The weak teams defended and average goals per game plunged to 2.12, a 20-year-low.

Africa sent five teams to the 2014 World Cup, Asia only four. Inhabitants of these vast continents might argue that they deserve more, but they do not. None of Asia’s quartet even reached the second round and the cliché that an African country will “one day” win the World Cup has long since been jettisoned.

Western Europe has just 6 per cent of the world’s population, but its teams have nabbed eight of the nine podium places (first, second or third) at the past three World Cups. In 2014, the rest of the world produced only one team that could compete with them: Lionel Messi’s Argentina. For the 16 additional mediocre teams qualifying in 2026, the highlight will be the months of excited anticipation before the tournament begins. Their ambition will be 0-0 draws.

Already, most first-round games in 32-team World Cups are of lower quality than the Spanish, English, Italian and Champions League matches that regular viewers around the world are used to. From 2026 they will have to sit through 16 three-team groups before the knockout rounds.

“There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup,” says Mr Infantino. But not if it is a dull unprestigious World Cup.

Viewers — already switching off live sport, perhaps lured away by social media — may get into the habit of watching World Cups only from the knockout stage. And very few countries will have enough stadiums to host these mass events. In a sane world, which international football is not, China or the US will host in 2026.

Fifa thinks the bigger tournament will produce $1bn more income from broadcasters, sponsors and ticket sales, compared with the $5.5bn expected from next year’s World Cup in Russia. Much of that cash will go to the 211 national federations and some of it, if history is any guide, to the personal bank accounts of federations’ presidents. Of course Fifa’s governing council voted for expansion today: they are like small children voting for Christmas. They don’t seem to care that a bigger World Cup means a diminished World Cup.

“为了足球运动会更好”是国际足联(Fifa)的口号,但这个全球足球主管机构做出的从2026年起将世界杯参赛球队数量扩大至48支的决定却对足球比赛不利。实际上,这是国际足联利益与中立球迷利益发生冲突的典型例子。国际足联将会赚更多的钱,而该机构主席詹尼?因凡蒂诺(Gianni Infantino)可以期望感恩戴德的亚洲和非洲足联在2019年投票支持他连任。但即便是亚洲和非洲的广大球迷也将会倍感失望,精彩的足球盛事因为这个决定而沦落为平庸球队之间单调乏味的比赛。

就世界杯而言,借用作家金斯利?艾米斯(Kingsley Amis)的话来说,更多意味着更坏。在1978年,世界杯仅有16支球队参赛。自那以后,越来越多的弱队获得比赛资格。大多数球队来到世界杯只是防守、盲目奔跑和犯规。对球迷来说,这就像观看某人花了90分钟来停一辆公交车。业内专家将2006年世界杯期间乌克兰与瑞士在科隆踢的那场比赛视为万年人类文明史上的“谷底”,那场比赛双方未进一球,最后靠点球决出胜负——尽管2010年世界杯上巴拉圭与日本在比勒陀利亚踢的那场比赛同样沉闷乏味(那场比赛不仅没有进球,而且匪夷所思)。



西欧人口只占全球的6%,但其球队在过去3届世界杯占据了9个领奖台(第一名、第二名或者第三名)上的8个位置。在2014年,其他地区只出了一个可能与它们竞争的球队:莱昂内尔?梅西(Lionel Messi)所在的阿根廷队。对2026年获得参赛资格的新增的16支平庸球队来说,亮点将是世界杯开始前数月的兴奋期待。它们的抱负将是争取0:0平局。











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