The FIFA World Cup will happen in November of this year in Qatar. Last night, the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) qualified for a spot in that tournament even though it lost its game to Costa Rica by a score of 2-0. The way that soccer federations and FIFA determine eligibility for the World Cup is often unclear to me; so, I just read the reports of people who know more about that and take their analysis as valid. The reason the USMNT qualified for the World Cup despite the loss is that:
“… the men avoided a 6-goal defeat at the hands of Costa Rica.”
The USMNT failed to make the World Cup tournament in 2018; therefore, this qualification is seen as a bright spot in the evolution of men’s soccer here in the US. Such is not the emotion felt in Italy these days. The Italians also failed to make the World Cup in 2018 leading to a national malaise in that part of the world. Then, last week, the Italians were eliminated from contention for the 2022 World Cup tournament when it lost to North Macedonia by a score of 1-0 with the winning goal coming in stoppage time.
Dwight Perry captured the reaction to that loss to North Macedonia in the Seattle Times:
“North Macedonia scored in stoppage time to beat Italy 1-0 — Italy’s first defeat in 60 home World Cup qualifiers — and knock it out of a second consecutive World Cup appearance.
“The reaction in Rome? Let’s just say that, if Nero were alive, he’d be fiddling.”
Recall about a year ago when a bunch of the biggest and best soccer teams in Europe announced that they were going to form a Super League and that announcement caused folks in UEFA and FIFA to get their knickers in a knot. The threat that those teams would be banned from their own leagues in country and players on those teams could lose eligibility to compete in World Cup tournaments seemed to put all of that to rest. However, it sounds as if the soccer world is living out the plot of a cheesy sequel to one of the old vampire movies. Here is the order of events:
- Vampire goes on a rampage in Movie #1 until someone figures out how to plunge a wooden stake into its heart.
- Once again there is peace in the valley; the women and children are safe at night.
- Then at the start of Movie #2, someone finds the crypt of the vampire and a body with a stake through its heart.
- Naturally, that person cannot resist the temptation to pull the stake out of the “victim”.
- Back comes the vampire on one more rampage through the villages – – until – –
- Someone figures out how to put the stake back in its heart.
Well, there are indications that some of the folks who thought the European Super League was a good idea in the first place have not given up on the idea and might try a relaunch. Here is my understanding of how and why this is happening; it involves not just laws and lawsuits, but it focuses on European Union laws. I am wading into deep waters here…
- Three of the soccer teams that would have joined the European Super League had it come into being were Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.
- After the idea of the Super League was shot down, these three clubs filed suit against UEFA and FIFA with the following claim. The teams assert that “the organizations both regulate and profit from the competitions they oversee, violating European competition law.”
- Depending on which report you read and when it was published, there could be as many as 7 teams ready to join the Super League if some sort of framework for its existence can be constructed.
As you might expect, however, the folks who run UEFA are not the least bit happy about the soccer world’s version of Return of the Vampire. Here is the reaction of the UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin:
“They first launched their nonsense of an idea in the middle of a pandemic. Now … they are planning to launch another idea in the middle of a war. These people, they obviously live in a parallel world.”
“Nobody forbids them to play their own competitions. But if they want to play their own competition, they cannot play in ours.”
If FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has taken a position on these new rumors, I have not seen it. However, it would seem to me that he has the wooden stake that might put the figurative vampire here out of action again. The top-shelf European teams that might join the Super League are only top-shelf teams because they have the best players from all over the world on their rosters. If FIFA bans those players from any of its World Cup events and/or the competitions that lead up to the World Cup tournament, that could well deny those top-shelf teams from retaining the talent that makes them “Super League worthy”.
This is not over – – just as there can be more than a few sequels to the old vampire movies such as Return of the Vampire and Bride of the Vampire and Revenge of the Vampire and … you get the idea.
Finally, since today has been about soccer, let me close with this elemental view of the game itself”
“The rules of soccer are very simple, basically it is this: if it moves, kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………