Sam Wallace: Why on Earth does Cahill have to play in January's Asian Cup? Because this isn't Earth, it's Planet Fifa
Talking Football: Everton are entitled to feel cheated by Australia claiming Cahill for six weeks. The Asian Cup is Fifa mismanagement at its most spectacular
Monday 04 October 2010
When Tim Cahill became an Australian international, Fifa still decreed that Australia was in Oceania. Now Fifa says Australia is in Asia. Which means that Australia's participation in the Asian Cup in January could deprive Everton of one of their most crucial players for six weeks.
This is how Fifa divides up the globe – like a 14-year-old flunking a geography exam. Australia is in Asia, Israel is in Europe and England have to play Kazakhstan in a European qualifier for the World Cup. Australia's admission to the Asian confederation suits them because they no longer face a play-off with a South American nation to reach the World Cup finals. It plays merry hell with the plans of managers like Everton's David Moyes.
Moyes is entitled to feel cheated by Australia claiming Cahill for six weeks out of his season. It is not the same as Premier League managers moaning about African footballers playing at the Africa Cup of Nations. Every manager knows before he signs an African international that, every two years, that player is likely to be away in the spring. When Moyes signed Cahill he did not know that the continental plates of Planet Fifa were to shift again.
The Asian Cup is Fifa mismanagement at its most spectacular. Fifa just cannot make its mind up when the Asian Cup should be played. This January's tournament in Qatar will be the 15th Asian Cup since the first in 1956 and the previous competitions have been held in December (three times), May (three), October (three), September (twice), July (twice) and June (once).
These days Fifa says that the hosts – the competition will be in Australia in 2015 – can choose between staging the tournament in January or July. If Fifa cannot organise its own international calendar then you have to wonder what else it is failing to do.
But what do you expect? International football has become an exercise in commercial exploitation so blatant that if it was perpetrated by the Premier League it would probably prompt one of Sepp Blatter's outraged speeches. The worst offenders are the South American nations and yet the Fifa president says nothing.
No nation racks up the air miles like the Brazil national team and this forthcoming international break is no different. First up for Brazil is a friendly against Iran on Thursday in Abu Dhabi. For Brazil's Europe-based players Abu Dhabi is roughly a 7,000-mile round trip. For the six Brazil-based players named in the squad the flight there is 7,500 miles. Then Brazil go back to Europe to play Ukraine at Derby County's Pride Park. That is 17,200 miles in total for the Brazil-based players.
It did not take Uruguay long to cash in on their fourth place at the World Cup and follow the Brazilians on the money trail. Uruguay are playing Indonesia in Jakarta (9,400 miles from Montevideo) and then China in Wuhan (11,800 miles from Montevideo) in the next eight days. Even for the Uruguayan players in Europe, Jakarta is 7,300 miles from London.
Chile, another South American side eager to make the most of a good World Cup, are off in pursuit of petrodollars too. They play the United Arab Emirates (9,000 miles from Santiago) on Saturday and then Oman three days later. Oman, ranked 92nd in the world, have never reached a World Cup finals, yet they regularly persuade big international sides to fly across the world to play them. It cannot just be the sunny weather.
Argentina are playing Japan in Saitama on Friday. Manchester United copped it for that money-spinning testimonial they played in Saudi Arabia in 2008. But the truth is that South American nations do it all the time and no one says a word. Brazil play Argentina in November but not in South America, or Europe where the majority of the players are based. They are playing in Qatar.
Brazil's game against Iran will be their 16th in-season friendly since they played England at Wembley in June 2007 and only one of them has been in Brazil. They have played in Dortmund, Montpellier, Chicago, Boston, Dublin (twice), London, Seattle, Tallinn, Doha, Oman and New Jersey. None of these games has done anything to reduce the travelling burden on their Brazil-based players. Even those Europe-based Brazilians are routinely flying off to America and the Middle East for friendlies.
This is about more than just flogging tired players around the world, it is about the sanctity of international football. If these players are to be made to fly long distances, how about giving them the chance to play in front of their own fans occasionally? Most Chileans will have about as much chance of watching their team in person in Oman as the 32 of their compatriots stuck down the San Jose mine.
The best players in South America will also be required to turn out at the Copa America in Argentina this summer. It promises to be a long season for them but there is no sign that their national associations are relenting in wringing every last penny out of the lucrative friendly market.
Moyes chose his words carefully on Friday when he wondered aloud why Cahill was required for an international tournament in the middle of his club season. He knows that any club who dare defy Fifa will find themselves crushed by a governing body which claims, "For the good of the game", to do the best by international football and international footballers.
The Everton manager would be entitled to ask why then Fifa sees fit to allow Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina to drag their players all over the world for meaningless friendlies in the middle of the season. But he would probably wait a long time for a sensible answer.
Levy pays heed to Arsenal's lead in stadium planning
Much upset at club chairman Daniel Levy's announcement that Tottenham are considering the Olympic stadium in Stratford as an alternative to a rebuilt White Hart Lane, despite having gained planning permission from Haringey council on their £400m new stadium.
This is Levy – one of the shrewdest negotiators in the business who, lest we forget, had his first stadium plans rejected by Haringey in January. What he is saying to the council's planning department is that unless they play ball, they could lose Spurs for ever. It is the same unspoken threat that Arsenal held over Islington council over planning for the Emirates. It tends to work.
Russian bid let off much too politely
You might have thought that the Russian bid to host the 2018 World Cup finals would have regarded Peter Odemwingie as a major asset. Nigerian father, Tartar mother from Tashkent. He plays international football for Nigeria but as one of those "bid ambassadors" he would be invaluable.
"I don't want to criticise Russia. It is still my country. But they are not ready, for me, to host the World Cup," he said on Saturday, citing lack of infrastructure. He could have mentioned the racism too but, like everyone else in this World Cup bid, he is just being far too polite to the Russians.
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