Categories: Featured, Football, Sports Development
Written By: Olusegun Odegbami
Things are happening very fast in 2017.
Two weeks into the New Year the biggest news in football comes out of Zurich. FIFA finally approved its president, Giovanni Infantino’s proposal to expand the World Cup from 36 countries to 48!
The reactions since then have been spontaneous and diverse. It is as if people were jolted from a deep slumber. Why the issue was not vigorously publicly scrutinized and interrogated before such a big decision was taken still baffles me.
Be that as it may, the world has woken up now and, this past week has been confronted with the reality of an expansion with huge repercussions. The first is that hosting the global championship will now require more facilities, services, personnel and finances than ever before, making the project a very expensive and less attractive proposition for a single country
There is also now a growing school of thought that this expansion will dilute the competitiveness and standard of the matches in the World Cup when several additional countries will join the ‘party’ from less developed football cultures of Africa and Asia.
Short of declaring that the hosting of the World Cup is now the exclusive privilege of only the richest countries in the world, the only other option is to open the championship new ideas and a new arrangement.
With 12 more teams and more matches to be played over the same period of 32 days as before, the championship would now demand more of everything stretching the resources of a single host nation to breaking point, and eliminating the poorer nations of the world that should actually be its greatest beneficiaries.
In recent times we have seen massive protests by the citizens of some host countries (Brazil in 2014 for example) that believe the championship impoverishes rather than enriches their countries and people.
Unfortunately, Giovanni’s motivation for spearheading the new re-arrangement is less about the standard of football during the World Cup and more about the greater benefits that will accrue to both FIFA and the several countries around the world that will now have the opportunity to enjoy being a participant or a host of the global competition.
Beyond these I see further opportunities and benefits emanating from this new arrangement.
The bidding and hosting procedure for the World Cup will never be the same again. A new concept will inevitably evolve.
I saw it coming 13 years ago. My lone voice in the wilderness was drowned by the cacophony of the blurred minds and limited vision of those that did not see the rationale and the greater benefits of getting more countries to come together and use the power of the most prestigious football championship as a tool of socio-cultural and economic development.
I saw the prospects 13 years ago. The new FIFA have done so now and have sprouted a new system that resurrects a positive rethink of the idea of joint or co-hosting of the World Cup.
My simple take on the matter are these: 1. There is no going back to the old format again. This new system will take off in 2026.
2. Further debate over its pros and cons until it is tested in 2026 is a waste of time and energy.
3. Neighbouring countries in different continents will have to start thinking of joining forces and combining resources to bid for and to host the World Cup of 2026 and beyond.
4. The rotational arrangement between the continents will now be more meaningful and would have gone full circle to return to Africa after 2026. In 2030 it will be Africa’s turn again.
5. West Africa is the most qualified and most ready region in Africa to bid for and to host the next African World Cup.
6. Nigeria has already done substantial ground work on a co-hosting arrangement that only requires a little bit of tweaking here and there to become a full working document.
7. West Africa is Africa’s football power region having contributed the most to the recognition of Africa’s strength in the World Cup.
8. The region is ready-made for the World Cup in terms of its rich culture, economic strength, political stability and compact size.
9. There is already a well established regional integration project and protocol on ground in the region that will be fast-tracked by a joint effort to host the World Cup.
10. It will be the simplest, most beautiful, most colourful, most integrative, most collaborative and least expensive World Cup in history. Yet, its economic viability for FIFA would be guaranteed.
So, specifically, I am proposing again that 5 countries in the West African sub-region should bid for the rights to host the next World Cup coming to Africa. The other countries shall enjoy the ripple effect.
I am also predicting that 13 years from now, Nigeria will lead Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire to host the 2030 World Cup.
The 12 venues needed to host the global championship shall be shared as follows: Nigeria 6; Republic of Benin 1; Togo 1; Ghana 2; and Cote D’Ivoire 2.
That journey should start now.
It will be the greatest show the world has ever seen and will catalyse the fastest economic and infrastructural transformation of a poor region in the history of the world through sports!
It will happen!