Unless you hail from one of the eight participating nations, you would be forgiven for being unaware that one of FIFA’s four major international tournaments has been meandering to a conclusion in Russia the past fortnight.
25 years on from its inception, the Confederations Cup has about the significance of the Club World Cup and similar levels of credibility as a pre-election political promise. In a time when interest in the international game is floundering, a meaningless eight team tournament in the middle of summer will do nothing to change the idea of club superiority.
You only need note that in recent times France, Italy and Germany (twice) have declined to even participate in the tournament to know where it stands on the international podium. The teams who do show up speak of it as a chance to “gain a logistical advantage” before a World Cup instead of the possible glory of success. This should be a tournament crowning the current king of continental football yet it has become a glorified dress rehearsal for the host country.
Many younger fans are unaware that the idea of a tournament containing the winners of all the continental tournaments was actually the brainchild of Saudi Arabia and the first two instances of the competition were held there and called the “King Fahd Cup”. It was not until 1997 where FIFA stepped in and began the shape it into the two weeks of indifference we get today.
This is one of only two senior worldwide international competitions and is considerably more selective in participation than the diluted forms of World Cup we will see in the future.
So why not build it as such?
FIFA speaks about wanting each World Cup not to be a singular event but to leave a lasting legacy. What legacy does the Confederations Cup have? Does anyone even remember who won it 4 years ago? For clarity Brazil have won the last three with experimental squads which also only serves to compound the laissez-faire attitude shown to it.
Of the four semi-finalists, Chile, Germany, Mexico and Portugal only the teams from Central and South America have shown any real passion about winning the cup and if it ever wishes to gain any prestige, this must be the first issue resolved.
The tournament needs a complete rebrand. The trophy is a taller, skinnier replica of the World Cup and has become a means to an end rather than the end of the road itself. No budding talent lists winning it as a career ambition and unless you’re one of the weaker participants, the people don’t draw much honour from winning it either. The problem is undoing 25 years of negligence and building some form of prestige is a monumental task.
The problem here is as with other issues within the organisation and despite the “new era” post Sepp Blatter it seems FIFA are still too content with that status quo to do anything about the decline in international football and you don’t need to be patriotic to feel mournful regarding that.
One of the few positive moves FIFA made before the start of this tournament was to announce that the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system would be trialled during the tournament with officials given the power to help referee’s in clutch moments of contention.
Thus far it has endured a mixed rate of success. FIFA’s Massimo Busacca claims it contributed to correct 6 game changing decisions in the group stage, along with aiding referees to rule correctly on 29 other “major incidents” during the competition.
For all this bureaucratic positivity, it cannot be ignored that when it came to the biggest moment of the tournament so far in extra-time of the semi-final, Chile were denied a penalty which was immediately obvious on the replay.
It is understandable that VAR’s are reluctant to artificially alter the result of a game by awarding a penalty so deep in the game but if they are being instructed by FIFA to be cautious in such moments and in doing so be afraid to fulfil their role correctly, then they will become as arbitrary as the assistants behind the goalmouth and what could be the biggest advancement of football since the back-pass was outlawed could be all for nought.
Earlier in the piece I spoke about legacy and regarding the changes required to give this tournament a soul and identity. If one gift is to come from this let it be that after review of the system, it becomes as successful as goal-line technology in the modern game. Don’t let traditionalists fool you, it is required with the pace of football in 2017.
When the Confederations Cup ends this Sunday, there will be de-facto champions of world football. That’s how big this tournament should be but in reality the fireworks will go off, the ticker tape will fly and all we will have learned is, Russia has still a long way to go before June 2018 and this quite possibly, is the greatest disappointment of all.
Written by: RFahy00