No Longer The Main Event

10 Jun
Each World Cup seems to provide an equal mixture of football magic, and on and off-field scandal.  For every Maradona wonder goal, there’s a Zidane headbutt.  Everybody has their own favourite tournament – for French fans it’s 1998, anyone from Argentina has 1978 or 1986, and if you’re a Brazilian pensioner, then take your pick.
The tournament in South Africa is eagerly anticipated and will hopefully be one to remember – if they can overcome injury problems, Spain look a good bet to become champions for the first time. However, no matter how good a competition it turns out to be, the days of the World Cup being the number one football event on the planet are over – over the past 10-15 years, the Uefa Champions League has become football’s most important competition.

While patriots and traditionalists across the globe would be disgusted at such a statement, they need to face facts. The football played in the Champions League is of a higher standard than anything at international level, and there are a number of reasons for this. For a start, pretty much of all the world’s best players appear year in, year out, in Europe’s premier club competition. If a player is good enough, the chances are he will be bought by one of the top sides – nobody misses out simply because of their nationality, unlike George Best, Ryan Giggs and George Weah, none of whom had the opportunity to appear at a World Cup

It also stands to reason that a group of players who train together every day, and play together 50-60 times a season will develop more of an understanding than a team who meet up a handful of times over the course of a year. That’s before you consider that some big names only appear for their country when it’s a competitive fixture and give the friendlies a miss, meaning they even less chance of gelling with team-mates.

The Champions League is now an incredibly difficult competition to win. The old knockout format, containing only the league champions from each country was replaced by group stages with more top teams. This year’s winner’s, Inter Milan, entered the competition knowing they would be competing against three sides from their own country as well as the top four sides from La Liga and the English Premier League. That’s before you even start to think about sides from Germany, Holland, Portugal and Russia.

Slowly but surely, club football has become more important than the international game. The amount of money now earned by the top professionals is obviously a huge factor – it’s natural that someone earning £100k per week is going to put their club first. Due to the demands of the modern game, more and more players retire early from the national side in order to prolong their club careers, something that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago.

The World Cup is one of the world’s greatest sporting events, bringing people together and nations to a standstill like no other football tournament. The fact that it’s only held every 4 years adds to it’s appeal. No doubt there will be moments in South Africa, good and bad, that will remembered for generations.

However, times have changed. The rise of the Champions League, and the level of football it produces, means that the World Cup is no longer the pinnacle of the game.








4 Responses to “No Longer The Main Event”

  1. sidbl June 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Just turn on the TV and look at the reaction of people around the world. There is no competition that can come close to the World Cup, not even the money mad champions league.

    Any true football fan will always put their national team first and the World Cup will always be first.

  2. footballfutbolfitba June 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not disagreeing with the view that as an event, nothing can beat the World Cup. However, the point of the article was that the standard of football is now higher in the Champions League. I stand by the reasons I’ve given.

    As for a true football fan always putting their national team first, I don’t buy that one – club fans can be equally, if not more committed. By your reckoning, someone who has little interest in the game for 4 years, but then gets involved because there’s a good atmosphere in the pub is a ‘true fan’. No chance.

  3. Mike June 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    Sorry just cant agree, the Champions league has a high standard in the latter stages after the group games, its no different to the world cup. However the world cup still as far as i can see got a higher standard of football than the champions league.
    The champions league is not harder to win than the world cup.
    For me international football is above club football, every 4 years for an entire month I watch virtually every world cup game played and I love it each world cup and have loved it since I first watched my first world cup in 1974.
    Give me a choice of having to never watch the Champions league every year or having to miss the world cup every 4 years and its a no brainer….. bye bye champions league.

  4. footballfutbolfitba June 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Mike, thanks for your comment. I take your point about the group stages of both competitions, but we’ll need to agree to disagree. While I also love the World Cup (1986 my favourite), over the last decade I think the level of football in European football has ovetaken anything at international level.

    Thinking about recent Champions League winners like Inter Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United, I would say these teams are, at the very least, a match for recent world champions Italy and Brazil.

    I also think it’s unfair to expect, for instance, Lionel Messi to produce his best when playing with a group of guys he teams up with possibly half a dozen times a year. It’s only natural that he will perform at a higher level with players he’s with week in, week out.

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