10 October 2017 – With qualification for Russia 2018 reaching boiling point for most countries around the globe, it seems fitting to try and figure out exactly what all the fuss is about and just why participation in the quadrennial showpiece is so vital.
The mere act of simply rubbing shoulders with the eventual 32 participating countries is a prestigious act in itself. The fact that the world cup finals are whittled down from roughly 206 nations to only 32, puts qualifying countries in a rare, elite group that you simply need to be a part of. The biggest event (sporting or otherwise) on earth – miss out at your peril.
The FIFA World Cup is quite possibly the ultimate medium to showcase your country and its talents, being the most watched event around the world. The cumulative audience for the 2006 showpiece was estimated at 26.29 billion! Most final games have close to 1 billion viewers – surely no other event on earth (even in the music industry) can match such numbers.
Yes advertising is banned and team sponsors cannot be exposed on the world stage (allowed during training sessions and off-field activities though, so all is not lost) but treating your country as a brand on its own and showing it off to the rest of the world in this regard, would be clever business and prove to be a great investment for future endeavours.
Not only will a good showing at the event showcase players, coaching and administrative talent but also the riches and attributes not on display. A successful campaign inherently proves that your country has top footballing structures, above average coaches, world class administration systems, brilliant schooling and tertiary sports programs, unmatched academies and an overall solid handling of all levels of the game, among many other positives.
Participation itself can bring a multitude of benefits for the people of a country, not just for the footballers and support staff but for the average citizen as well.
Qualifying will by default result in more investment (both financial and otherwise) from the main footballing body (in our case – SAFA), and this will filter all the way down to the financially challenged populations and communities – all at the advantage of the poor who were previously devoid of opportunities and a way out of poverty.
If world cup qualification and handling of the rewards thereof are implemented correctly, it could seriously benefit the social aspects of a nation.
The potential for footballing development are huge particularly because of the financial gains associated with the competition. Teams getting knocked out in round one still come out with substantial monetary gains which is in turn invested by the relevant bodies into overall footballing development including grass-root structures, coach and match official training, technology systems, equipment, pitches and much more. Imagine the reward for actually winning the competition – an already strong footballing powerhouse will be provided with extra tools to become even stronger . . . primarily by an investment into youth development. Cameroon’s great showing in 1990 was a huge stepping-stone for the country and a fantastic example.
In football, teams are judged by history and the generations that have come before. Qualification itself is deemed a success for any nation. Going on and winning the event etches you into immortality.
One only has to fondly recall our very own national team who won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 1996 – such a group of players will forever be remembered as the first South African team to ever do so and nobody can ever take that away from them. Achieve something similar in a world cup and the magnitude is ten-fold.
The Spanish team who were victorious on local shores in 2010 have already left a lasting legacy for literally centuries to come and will never be forgotten. The impact that such titles have on a country as a whole (not to mention individual players who will be remembered as legends), is immense and immeasurable.
Opportunities for star players:
Showcasing your unique individual skills on the grandest stage of them all can almost change your life overnight. There is no bigger platform to impress potential suitors and scouts from the biggest clubs on the planet who are always on the lookout for star players.
James Rodriguez’ amazing display for Columbia at the 2006 World Cup, resulted in him being plucked by none other than Real Madrid who then went on to win three Champions Leagues in four seasons, thus forging their very own legacy.
One can only imagine the financial implications of such a move and the player’s life was almost changed for the better overnight. This is simply one example and there have been countless others.
Can you imagine a South African footballer having a similar story of success and making their dreams come true? However, it is only really possible if your country qualifies for the event first.
As stated above, mere qualification already guarantees financial rewards. As a team progresses, the more they receive. This however is just the tip of the iceberg as a good run or even mere participation can result in huge sponsorship interest and long-term investment into the country and its football initiatives. The 32 teams at next year’s World Cup finals will share a total fund of $576 million, including a prize-money pot of $358m with the winners taking home $35m. Such winnings can do wonders for a country.
The above-mentioned factors are just a few examples of why world cup qualification is of such importance. A nation’s football and overall ethos hinges on world cup participation particularly in terms of proper development, legacy, financial implications (particularly for poorer African countries), global opportunities, player advancement, investment, social variables and a few other intangible aspects as well. Good luck to all countries.
By: Dhirshan Gobind