World Cup Expansion of African and Asian Teams
It's an idea which Sepp Blatter has been promising since he was re-elected in 2011, the expansion of the World Cup to cover every corner of the world, and has now decided to expand on this initiative by wanting more African and Asian countries to participate.
Although this scheme has remained problematic, with Blatter not clarifying if he wants more teams to participate in the tournament overall, or if South American and European places could be under threat in the biggest tournament in World Football at the expense of African and Asian countries.
Historically, African teams have failed to settle at big tournaments, with 2 out of the 5 African countries recently in Brazil 2014 having their players revolt over money issues, and Ghana having two players sent home for having a heated argument. Meanwhile, Asian teams failed to make an impact in the tournament, with Iran, Australia, Japan and Korea all exiting the competition at the group stage.
This provides the motive for Blatter's argument, with the FIFA President insitsting that in order for African nations to compete with the European and South American teams, there has to be a greater representation. He said, "It cannot be that the European and South American confederations lay claim to the majority of the berths at the World Cup (18 or 19 teams), because taken together they account for significantly fewer member associations (63) than Africa and Asia (100)."
"Africa, the confederation with the most member associations (54), is woefully under-represented at the World Cup with just five places. As long as this remains the case, African sides may never win an intercontinental trophy, regardless of progress on the playing side," he added.
Whilst nobody is arguing against the introduction of African and Asian teams, Platini is wary that Blatter might reduce the number of European teams within the World Cup. The UEFA Chief told The Times, "I totally agree with Mr Blatter that we need more African and Asian. But instead of taking away some European, we have to go to 40 teams."
Currently there are 32 teams in the World Cup, with 13 coming from Europe, 10 from North and South America, 5 from Africa and only 4 from the Asian area.
Prior to the World Cup, there were teams such as Egypt, Panama and Cape Verde all in the top 40 World rankings, and under Blatter's proposed expansion plans, could easily feature in the biggest football tournament in the world.
But isn't Blatter's argument flawed? Would Egypt, Panama or Cape Verde win a World Cup? If Blatter wants the likes of Ghana, Japan or Ivory Coast to win a World Cup, then how would the introduction of even more teams who are considerably weaker help to result in that outcome?
Realistically, the theoretical idea behind Qatar and South Africa hosting the World Cup was and remains a tremendous achievement which Blatter must be credited for as he fulfils his plan of expanding football to cover the globe. The World Cup is a chance to allow lesser-developed areas to build a strong football base which can help to implement grass-roots football and provide long-term jobs and even a development of infrastructure.
We all want England to host the World Cup, but how would we benefit? We live in the country which hosts the most watched League in the world, with football stadiums which are world class and expansion plans are already under way for the likes of the Etihad, Anfield and White Hart Lane to have an increased capacity.
Overall, the introduction of having more African and Asian teams is a scheme I would support. But to replace European teams would weaken the quality of football which is showcased at the World Cup, and even that would not be something in the interest of FIFA.
As Blatter once said, "At the end of the day an equal chance for all is the paramount imperative of elite sport."
Written by Matt Davis