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Tim Cahill a public face of FIFA's controversial World Cup plan, as Europe threatens boycott

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9th September, 2021
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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has warned of a potential European boycott of the World Cup if FIFA’s plans to stage the tournament every two years go ahead.

World soccer’s governing body is carrying out a review of the international match calendar, led by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who said on Thursday that the plans for a major tournament every year have received a positive response.

Under the proposals the World Cup would rotate with continental tournaments such as the European Championship and be played every second year instead of every fourth.

Socceroos legend Tim Cahill was on a panel of elite former players who talked up the benefits of a biennial World Cup after a meeting on Thursday.

“We can decide not to play in it,” Ceferin, head of European soccer’s governing body, told The Times.

“As far as I know, the South Americans are on the same page. So good luck with a World Cup like that.

“I think it will never happen as it is so much against the basic principles of football.

“To play every summer a one-month tournament, for the players it’s a killer. If it’s every two years it clashes with the women’s World Cup, with the Olympic football tournament.

“The value is precisely because it is every four years. You wait for it, it’s like the Olympic Games, it’s a huge event. I don’t see our federations supporting that.”

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FIFA’s Congress voted by a large majority for a ‘feasibility study’ to be carried out on the idea of a biennial World Cup but Ceferin stressed that the idea should be rejected.

“I hope they (FIFA) will come to their senses, because I don’t see the right approach to go everywhere except the confederations, not to speak to us.

“They didn’t come, they didn’t call, I didn’t get a letter or anything. I just read in the media.”

Ceferin said he also had no interest in UEFA’s Euros being held every two years instead of every four years.

“It might be good for UEFA financially but the problem is we would be killing football like that. We are killing the players. 

But Wenger, now FIFA’s head of Global Football Development, has been pushing the idea for several weeks before holding a consultation with a group of around 80 former players and coaches in Doha, Qatar, this week.

Former Brazil World Cup winner Ronaldo appeared on a virtual press conference with Wenger on Thursday and expressed his support for the idea, with Cahill and former Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel also backing the process.

“Firstly it’s all about transparency,” Cahill said.

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“I feel now after the presentation, with the transparency of what Arsene Wenger [and] FIFA have put together, thinking about the future, when you have 166 countries asking for the feasibility [study], it’s really important that everyone can do their due diligence and add some context.”

Cahill believes the change would make it easier for players by reducing cross-continental travel.

“I’m Australian, I played in four World Cups and three of those through Asia. It’s really , really difficult,” he said.

“If you can take into consideration a national team being together for a month, being able to train, be with fans, play games, prepare properly, qualify. It takes Australia three years to qualify for a World Cup whereas in Europe it takes one year.

“There’s so many aspects that needs more context, more information. We need to digest it and the nice thing here is having an open conversation.”

Cahill works in Qatar as the chief sports officer at the Aspire Sports Academy and he has been criticised in Australia for becoming an official ambassador for the Qatar 2022 World Cup due to the human rights abuses connected to stadium construction.

Schmeichel said that none of the players who had attended the discussion had been against the idea of moving to a two-year cycle rather than the current four-year gap.

“Overall, I think I have got a very positive response, but this decision is a democratic decision and will be made certainly by the 211 countries who are affiliated to FIFA. I think that we continue to consult people,” said Wenger.

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“I’m 100 per cent convinced that what I propose is the right solution for the modern way to organise football. If people have better ideas, I’m open to it and I welcome every idea that is better than mine.

“I will not vote. I just make a proposal that I think will improve things and make life better for everybody, but especially make football better.

“My main target is not guided by anything else.”

© AAP

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