“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
— Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince (1532)
This quote from 1532 by Niccolo Machiavelli resonates just as loudly as it did back in 1532 to today in 2017. The “new order of things” we face today in football is the expansion of the Wold Cup format of 35 years from 32 teams to 48 in 2026.
Change scares everybody, it scares me more when the history of football is being placed in the middle of power and money. We are reluctant to change when something has worked for so long and somebody who has only held the post for 11 months decides to introduce “… a new order of things”.
Who is Gianni Infantino?
We all recognise Mr Infantino from the Champions League draws and the World Cup Draws. We never, or I never did, think much of him during the many cup draws. I saw him as a friendly face of the game. If we wanted anyone to host these draws it was his bald head.
I never looked into him during his time with UEFA, looking back now I almost think his ‘clean’ come up through the ranks unmarked was almost ‘strategic’ in a way or am I over thinking? But if we look at FIFA’s track record with Platini…(I’ll just leave that there).
Gianni Infantino was born in Brig, Switzerland, 20th of March, 1970 son of Italian immigrants. He studied Law and is trilingual x3. So pretty impressive.
His first post in working in Sports was at the University of Neuchatel working as the Secretary General of the International Centre for Sports Studies.
Infantino spent almost 15 years with UEFA where serious change was happening with him being at the forefront. Many can say he was, in his post, one of the most influential people regarding European football.
During his tenure Gianni Infantino introduced ‘Financial Fair Play’, he managed the expansion of Euro 2016 to 24 teams and is part of the team who introduced the UEFA Nations League that will take place in 2020 played across 13 nations. Quite a CV right?
There is a common thread in his decade long stint at UEFA. Changing formats, ‘rejuvenating’ competitions is not new for him clearly. I watched Euro 2016 closely, enjoyed most matches, and to be honest did not mind the expansion of 24 teams however, is the Euro looked at in the same way of the World Cup? Let’s leave that argument for another day.
Gianni Infantino took the reigns of FIFA in the most dramatic circumstances. Kind of like a movie where The Boss was publically arrested for corruption, FBI searching his headquarters, members of his ‘entourage’ were arrested around the world, some snitching to save themselves jail time and others like Sergio Jadue, Chile’s ex President of Football fled to Miami and others as arrogant as ever lied to camera so Infantino was about to enter one of the most publically humiliated posts ever.
FIFA needed a fresh face quick so elections were quickly held in Zurich, Switzerland in 2016 where Infantino won majority of the votes against Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa.
FIFA World Cup format
The World Cup format has expanded many times since it’s inception in Montevido, Uruguay in 1930 where 13 nations took place. Fast forward 52 years we introduced expanding to 32 teams. One of the best decisions for this illustrive competition.
I dont know about you but the 32 team system just works for the World Cup. Of course there are some nations who would like the idea of having more of a representation in this competition which then would highten the quality of football in their country and give kids more of an incentive to play. But what i want answered is, was the system ever broken?
I remeber Blatter back in 2013 voiced his want for World Cup expansion but i thought he was doing so preparing for a re-election. Soon after Platini too wanted the same but to 40 teams explaing, “[The World Cup is] not based on the quality of the teams because you don’t have the best 32 at the World Cup … but it’s a good compromise. … It’s a political matter so why not have more Africans? The competition is to bring all the people of all the world. If you don’t give the possibility to participate, they don’t improve.” Am i being too blunt in saying; the qualification gives the nation the possibility?
World Cup 2026
Only 10 days in the new year FIFA dropped a bomb shell that would shake the football world forever.
FIFA unamiously passed the motion for the 48 team World Cup which will presumably generate $1bn in income and $640 million in profits…money, money, money.
I am traditional as they get with this argument.
If they believe this change will make the game/competition more competitive than what it already is then I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say “I was wrong”.
If qualifiers can be more intense than what the European or South American already are then boy I’m on for a shock.
Infantino is carrying more than maybe what he bargained for. The German football Association along with the European Club Association have voiced their annoyances to the changes stating it was more of a political move than a sporting one are not wrong.
There are still a number of burning questions that need to be answered. 2026 is only three World Cups away and that’s nothing in football years. The fact that there will be no ‘trial period’ at least at Youth level astonished me but at the same time I’m not surprised. It’s FIFA.
These changes will most likely benefit Asia and Africa who desperately want higher representation on the world’s biggest stage. I’m for that, my view is do that with your football. Football isn’t a charity and that’s the view point I take on this expansion. If you want to mix it with the best then beat the best, qualify and go as far as you can in the world Cup. Invest, invest and invest! Something the FFA need to do.
We need to wait and see over the next few weeks and opinions continue to be voiced from associations to teams, to players to pundits. Either voicing your anger or your support will make this change important in it being made better for the players and us the spectators.