FIFA Club World Cup, give it a shot.
Many of you might not have noticed, but a world champion is about to be crowned. The FIFA Club World Cup has started this week in the United Arab Emirates. All of the champions of the continental confederations of the world are in this tournament, yet nobody seems to care. Why? Is it because everyone expects either a South American or European team to win? Is it because the competition is weak? Is it because it’s another few matches onto an already crammed schedule? Shouldn’t this tournament be important from the standpoint that an actual club can claim to be called the world champion, unlike some American sports leagues? It should be.
So why can’t it be important? Perhaps there needs to be more glamour clubs. But this would be dumb, and it would make those sorts of clubs look greedy in the process. Seriously, the way FIFA has the tournament set up is probably the best way to determine the world champion. Take the best continental teams from the different confederations, add in the host nation and then let them play in a tournament to determine the best of the best.
Currently, the seven teams are FC Barcelona (Spain, UEFA Champions League winners), Estudiantes La Plata (Argentina, Copa Libertadores winners), Pohang Steelers (South Korea, AFC Champions League winners), TP Mazembe (DR Congo, CAF Champions League winners), Atlante FC (Mexico, CONCACAF Champions League winners), Auckland City FC (New Zealand) OFC Champions League winners, and Al Ahli FC (UAE, host country league champions). Now people are going to look at this and say, Barcelona and Estudiantes will play for the championship. Those two teams have the bye into the semifinals. Auckland City FC and Al Ahli play in the play-in game (as of this printing Auckland City won that game). I had recently had the opportunity to watch Pohang Steelers and TP Mazembe play and it was a good match. Regardless of Pohang’s bad finishing and the bad defense of Mazembe, the match did see the teams play like they wanted to be there. The finish of that game was furious with Mazembe trying to even the match at 2 goals apiece, but Pohang Steelers moved on to face Barcelona in the semifinals. Granted nobody will give Pohang Steelers a chance against Barcelona, but it was only last year when Gamba Osaka of Japan lost to Manchester United 5-3. Gamba Osaka did give Manchester United a good fight from what I remember of that game, but Manchester United proved their class. It will yet to be seen how Pohang Steelers will play against the likes of Messi, Iniesta, Henry, Puyol and the rest of Barcelona.
Playing more games will cause congestion, and considering that players play enough games as it is, a group stage wouldn’t be feasible at this point. That might be the best scenario for some. Players are human after all, and it wouldn’t be good for their bodies to play more games as it is. Granted they may be athletes, even they have their limits.
Now, what about inviting teams? This wouldn’t work either. Why give an opportunity to teams that haven’t exactly earned their way into this tournament? At least, winning the continental championship gives some sort of legitimacy to their claim to become the world champion. It might make the competition and the clubs more money, but that would only serve to dilute the competition and reduce its meaning. At least, the host nation champion gets invited because of the country hosting the tournament, and that is fair. However, even if FIFA invites the runners-up of the continental competitions, or even the winners of the continent’s secondary cup competitions, it just wouldn’t make any sense.
So how can this FIFA Club World Cup be taken seriously? Perhaps a team from Asia, Africa, North America, or the host nation team can go far and people would take notice. It would have to be a consistent performance from those outsiders though. Perhaps if the European and South American teams, should they play in the final, and the final is a great game, perhaps that can be able to gain attention. Maybe if FIFA can expand their field to include more glamour teams, which would give more attention to this tournament. Regardless, perhaps the current set-up is the best way to determine the best in the world. Champions of the continents should have the opportunity to face each other, if only to see what would happen. Who knows? Maybe fans can see upsets or matches that they’d never thought they see from a playing standpoint.
As far as the subject is concerned, whoever wins the final on December 19th can rightfully be called the best club in the world. It shouldn’t matter which continent the club comes from, the best team should be whoever wins this tournament. The sad part is, most fans of the sport will not notice nor care. That is a shame because the best of the best clubs in the entire world will be playing, and even those clubs whom nobody has heard of deserves a chance to be seen and talked about.