FIFA Club World Cup takes a leap of significance
For years, the FIFA Club world cup has proven to be a largely ceremonial trophy in minds of many.
The competition is a culmination of all of the Champions League winners from each continent in a one off knock out format to crown the year’s greatest football club. The tournament tends to typically be a tooth extracting exercise for the champions of South America and Europe dismissing opponents from Asia, Africa and Central America en-route to a Europe vs. South America final - which more often than not results in heart break for the South American side that ventured over the Atlantic to make it for the affair.
Last year was a game to remember not only because it went to the second period of overtime before Messi chested the ball into the goal off a cross in the 100th odd minute but because I was present in the stadium that day to see it all unfold in front of my very eyes.
Estudiantes the Argentinian side that was playing against Barcelona was captained by none other than one Sebastian Veron in an almost Evander Holyfield Esq. bid at one last swipe at glory. Unfortunately for him, he left Abu Dhabi with a runners up medal and was forced to look on Lionel Messi’s achievements boding well for the future of Argentinean football on a national level rather than a club one.
It was arguably one of the best Club World Cup finals in memory, however the critics were still harping on about how this was hardly a competition of anything other than Europe and South America once again, with calls from more than one contingent within FIFA to consider scrapping the tournament altogether in favour of resting the players for their respective seasons.
This year however, is distinctly different from every other year because for the first time ever an African club will participate. TP Mazembe is in the final having dispatched both Central and South American champions in 1-0 and 2-0 defeats respectively.
Inter Milan now face Seongnam FC the K-League outfit from Korea that have had a great run of success in Asian Club Football over the last few years. If this Inter Milan side even began to resemble Jose Morhinio’s, one would think it impossible for anyone but them to go through, but after a disappointing string of results that has left the club mid table in the Serie A as opposed to their customary top spot over the last few years, Senognam FC fans should see this as one of their best opportunities to reach the final. In fact the prospect of an African club playing an Asian club for the crown of World Club Champion will have Sepp Blatter positively giddy at the fodder he would have at his disposal to silence the doubters that have sullied the Russian and Qatar bid victories for the upcoming World Cups.
Even if that doesn’t happen, anyone that watched TP Mezembe’s victory over the Brazilian outfit last night saw what I saw. The constant undercurrent of clubs from other continents becoming increasingly competitive is turning Football into a more global game than ever.
Right in line with Blatter’s predictions for the future and the direction in which he wants to take it. At this last World Cup I thought we saw the tide turning on an international level, with teams like North Korea losing by a slender 2-1 to a power house like Brazil and eventual winners Spain nearly getting knocked out at the group stages by the most unlikely of Eastern Europe’s finest.
Anyone pinning TP Mazembe’s success on the potential of it being a fluke should first ask themselves if their winning the African Champions League two years in a row was also some sort of strange coincidence. With better training methods being employed, ex-national team players with international club experience coming back to share their knowledge, a near flawless World Cup and an increasingly improving football infrastructure, Africa has plenty to smile about already. Who knows, in a few short days they might be doing more than just smiling, they might be dancing their way back to the continent as Champions of the World!