We’re nearing the completion of our ambitious World Cup Project but we have a few fantastic podcast episodes remaining, including today’s fascinating discussion. It’s no secret that FIFA, the governing body of football, is one of the most corrupt organizations in the world where shady backroom deals are the norm. What can be done to keep the beautiful game–and its marquee tournament–as innocent and pure as possible?
As always, your host is PSG Talk contributor Marc Damon and he welcomes the founder of the site, Ed! The two open up the episode discussing how the World Cup sparked their interest in soccer and a few memories that stand out. Once the pleasantries are out of the way, Damon and Ed dive into the matter at hand: the dark side of the World Cup.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past decade or so, you’re probably well aware of the scandal that rocked FIFA. We all knew it was going on but when Russia and Qatar were awarded the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 respectively, alarm bells went off and an investigation–led by the United States–revealed a host of transgressions that would forever change the organization. This leads Damon to ask the question, is FIFA even necessary? How can we ensure that countries who have no business hosting a future World Cup cannot bribe their way to a bid?
Following that discussion, Damon and Ed discuss what many see as a major flaw in the World Cup and that is the teams that actually qualify for the competition. FIFA’s rankings are problematic but if you use them as a baseline, several teams taking the pitch this summer in Russia rank pretty low in the standings, including Saudi Arabia (67th), Russia (66th), South Korea (61st), Japan (60th), and Panama (55th), to name a few. Is a tournament with the goal of crowning the best footballing nation in the world better with these teams in it over the likes of Chile (9th), Italy (20th), Wales (21st), Netherlands (19th), and the United States (24th)? Surely there has to be a better way. Damon and Ed discuss there innovative ideas to address the problematic qualifying system and even bring up the possibility of a second World Cup that would run concurrently with the main tournament and feature teams that did not qualify. So, instead of watching Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, you could turn the channel and watch Wales and Gareth Bale take on Italy and Marco Verratti. The prize for this second tournament is sure to raise a few eyebrows as well.
This episode wraps up with a spirited discussion about potential rule changes to the tournament. How can we spice up the third place match? What if the World Cup featured a skills competition before the tournament starts similar to what the NBA does during All-Star weekend? Let’s settle once and for all who the fastest player is and who has the hardest shot. Then there’s the issue of the penalty shootout. Is there a better way to decide these important matches? This episode has a little of everything and FIFA, if you’re listening and like our ideas, you know where to send the briefcase full of money.
Be sure to subscribe to our podcast (iTunes | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher) to receive every episode of The World Cup Project. The next episode will be available on June 8 and we will be talking with Matt from @PSGTourist about the England national team. Talk to you then!