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Opinion: There's only one positive to the Club World Cup

February 11, 2021

Without much value from a football perspective and with political and coronavirus question marks, there are many reasons to ignore the Club World Cup. But exposure for smaller teams is key, says Andreas Sten-Ziemons.

FIFA Club-WM | Al Ahly Kairo - FC Bayern München
Fans have been allowed at the Club World Cup despite the pandemicImage: Stringer/AA/picture alliance

Is the Club World Cup really the "icing on the cake" as Robert Lewandowski calls it?

Or is it just another superfluous competition? There's no question that the tournament of continental champions, which has just been played in Qatar, divides opinion.

Most European football fans are disinterested with the Club World Cup. The Champions League winners, seeded anyway and only entering the tournament in the semifinals, almost always triumph. 

Since the Club World Cup replaced the Intercontinental Cup in 2005, the winning team has come from Europe 12 times, with Brazilian teams taking the title on the other three occasions.

We know by and large who is going to win in advance, making it without sporting value and awkwardly jammed into an already packed calendar.

Questionable for several reasons

In addition, since FIFA has awarded the Club World Cup to Qatar for the second time in a row, there are other reasons to object to the competition.

1. In coronavirus times, travelling across the world makes no sense at all, certainly not when the only goal is to determine the winner of a football tournament. Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller has tested positive in Qatar. 

2. Qatar is an unworthy host, despite being ready to hold the World Cup next year. Human rights apply little there, women's rights less so. Allegations about the inhumane conditions suffered by the migrants workers who built the stadiums has dragged on for years. There have been no consequences.

Instead, Qatar is getting another opportunity with the Club World Cup to try to redeem itself through sports.

Kommentarbild von Andreas Sten-Ziemons
Andreas Sten-Ziemons is not a fan of the Club World CupImage: Slawa Smagin

3. FIFA is involved, so that means the Club World Cup is primarily not about sport, but about money. It's another competition that gives sponsors the opportunity to showcase their logos at prime time. Ironically, FIFA president Gianni Infantino thinks the tournament, which almost everyone involved already feels is a drag, is still too small.

Only the pandemic has prevented the next edition in December 2021 from being played with 24 participants instead of just seven. That won't happen until 2022 at the earliest - when FIFA can finally earn even more money. Morever, the expanded version is set to take place in China, another country with a questionable human rights record.

Opportunity to compete on big stage

So is there nothing positive at all about the Club World Cup? Not quite, but you have to put aside the European perspective and look at the competition from the point of view of the other participants.

When else do the best clubs from Asia, the Americas, Oceania and Africa have the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the world on a big stage? Isn't it therefore arrogant and thoughtless to demonize the competition as unnecessary and worthless?

Although Tigres from Mexico ultimately came up short against Bayern Munich in the final, it was still an unforgettable experience for the champions from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

We should therefore not deny the supposedly "lesser" players in world football the opportunity to measure themselves against the "greats."

What must be considered, however, is whether the competition should be continued as a bloated money-printing machine for FIFA and whether it should ever be awarded to a country where human rights are trampled underfoot.