During Arsene Wenger's recent visit to Qatar to tour the country, the ongoing two-year FIFA World Cup proposal was discussed with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and other FIFA representatives.
beIN SPORTS held an exclusive interview with the former Arsenal manager.
The interview with the coaching legend discussed the proposed FIFA two-year World Cup, the football calendar, Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United among other topics.
On 2-Year FIFA World Cup Proposal
International & Club calendar is fixed until 2024. I have been asked to reorganize the calendar after 2024 and on behalf of 166 countries to see if we can organize World Cup every two years. I have explained my proposal to all stakeholders – coaches, players, ex-players, fans, media – takes a long time to explain but it will eventually be down to FIFA member states to decide if it’s good or not.
On Communicating FIFA Proposal
We live in a world where communication is vital but simply what I propose is clarity in the calendar, better separation between club & international football, I propose to regroup the qualifiers in one month, use rest of year for club football and then big international competition at end of season, and a guaranteed rest of 25 days for each player.
I am guided by one simple thing to make football better in the world and to give talent a chance. Europe is the dominant federation but we must take care of the rest of the world. Europe has 13 countries in World Cup, Africa has 5 countries. If more countries have opportunity to go to World Cup then it will improve things within that country.
Players want to play in big competitions and improve in big competitions and that’s why I want to give them more opportunities.
In Asia you need three years to qualify for the world cup, in Europe it’s only one year but in my life football has become more important to society. We have to give more countries opportunity to be able to access top competitions in the world. We will have less qualifiers but a big tournament at the end of the season. It’s in the interests of the clubs, it’s good for the world, let’s hope but I’m open as well, there might be very intelligent people who have better proposals and I’m open to it but I want to make football better in the world.
On FIFA Proposal Player Welfare
What we know from doctors is that repeated travelling and climate shock/change creates biggest fatigue for players. We analysed South/Central American player who plays club football in Europe over four year cycle (Messi/Bryan Ruiz). These players travel 300,000 – 350,000 km over four year period. With my new system these players will travel less than half that distance. Currently players travel for qualifiers Sept, Oct, Nov, March, June but in new system this would not happen. Players have more rest.
On the Negative Reaction of the FIFA Proposal
People’s reactions at the moment is an emotional one. I have been educated to have a World Cup every four years, it’s engrained on my brain, so I can understand the response is negative but on the other hand I do not see any rational explanation why people shouldn’t want this. It’s all about quality of competition. What the players want is to play big games and meaningful games of better quality. When I was a kid the friendlies were important, today nobody wants to play them. What people want is big competitions and top level games.
On the FIFA Proposal Interfering with Regional Federations Tournaments
Separating club and international football will create different mental structure. Euro 2020 was great, next year we have the world cup, so two big tournaments in consecutive years and you will see that it doesn’t diminish the importance of the federation’s own competitions.
On Cristiano Ronaldo’s Return to Manchester United
At 36 years old Ronaldo has lost a little physical potential but he has compensated with more intelligence and better timing and better finishing. His numbers show he has still got it (great quality), the Premier League is the most physical league in the world, so it will be a good test for him, I think he still has it (great quality). His return creates a dream, excitement. We have had two recent UCL Finals with English clubs (Liverpool vs Tottenham 2019 & Chelsea vs Man City 2020), so that shows that the Premier League is the dominant league in Europe and getting stronger, Ronaldo reinforces that.
On Resting Ronaldo in some games
It will test Solskjaer’s communication skills to convince Ronaldo to rest, he’s not a guy who wants to sit on the bench and watch his team mates play.
What did Wenger say about Arsenal?
First of all, honestly, I like usually to say what I think but in this situation, I am first an Arsenal fan. After that, it’s very sensitive to talk about Arsenal. At the moment the timing is not the best to talk but I think the squad has quality, I’m not pessimistic because I feel they had two difficult games, Chelsea and Man City. The bad result was in the first game vs Brentford, after that the club is on the back foot, I wish them to recover, they play Norwich, so that’s an opportunity. The potential is there, so I hope they come back.
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