Monday, January 21, 2008

The world does not revolve around Ken Minyard. The world revolves around Europe.

For those who are not familiar with football/soccer (not that I'm in any way, shape or form an expert on the subject), a top-notch player on a football team has to balance his duties to his "club" (e.g. Manchester United, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy) against his duties to his national team.

Clubs pretty much have to live with this setup, although they grumble about it. In the worst case scenario, a player can be injured while playing with the national team, and therefore is unavailable for club team play. In the best case scenario, someone playing for the national team may miss a club game or two.

In Europe, they try to mitigate some of these club/nation conflicts by taking breaks in the club season to allow for various duties - not only national team play, but various opportunities for clubs to play for local or continental championships.

However, there's one national team contest that doesn't honor the European schedule. Why? Because it's not a European contest.

The African Cup of Nations takes place every two years, and is a contest in which selected African country teams play against each other for several rounds of play. If a team makes it to the final, then the players are absent from their club team duties for several weeks.

The African Cup of Nations usually takes place around this time of year, right in the middle of the seasons for all of the European leagues (seasons roughly follow the U.S. school year, unlike the Major League Soccer schedule which takes place in the middle of the calendar year). The European solution is simple - why don't you Africans just change your little competition so that it takes place during the summer?

That's what FIFA head Sepp Blatter is proposing:

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has added his support to calls for the Africa Cup of Nations to be moved from January to the middle of the year.

The dates for the biennial tournament have been a source of controversy because they conflict with a crucial time in the European club leagues....

The row has become ever more acute as the number of African players based abroad grows ever larger.

Ahmed Bilal of Soccerlens writes:

CAF (Confederation of African Football) says that the weather precludes playing the tournament in the summer. Why? Because...most of the African nations are quite close to the equator, and if you missed your geography lessons it’s bloody hot there in March, let alone June.

Unless everyone decides to play in South Africa every two years (somehow I doubt it), it can’t happen in June. The timing, whilst a tad bit unfortunate, is the best one....

[Sepp] Blatter:

“We put a target for 2016 that by that time the international calendar must be definitely in accordance with the interests of everybody.”

You mean the Europeans, surely?

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