Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Foreigners" in football clubs

FIFA has decided to set a limit on the number of foreign players in national club sides. The proposed rule is a so-called 6+5 rule, where national club sides will be obliged to line up at least 6 players eligible to play on the national team of the said country (the rule is to start by the year 2012).
With this, FIFA and Mr. Sepp Blatter have shown an extraordinary disregard of the forces of globalisation and the free movement of labour in the EU (no matter how one views the EU, the free movement of labour is one of its great achievements). But more worryingly, as a football fan, they show disregard for the quality of football which they say they are there to protect.

It is comforting that policy makers, in particular in the European Parliament, are already saying that FIFA should not expect any special treatment: citizens with the correct work permit should not be hindered from working in another member state. And this touches upon the fundamental rights of people, and football should have no exemption!
Also, the clubs are also echoing their worries to the new FIFA rule, not only in terms of its obvious illegality, but also in terms of footballing: it is obvious that many clubs, like Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, FC Barcelona, etc. - all big teams in the Champions League (as well as many teams in countries not even participating in the CL!), will have to completely re-set their teams.
And will this be good for football quality...?
With the advent of the Champions League we have seen some of the best and most competitive football ever. It is sad indeed, often, that clubs/teams/players are dominated by the desire to make money, instead of fighting for their clubs (notable examples abound though; note Mr. John Terry, a classical example of a Chelsea player by heart), but perhaps we should consider that the good old-fashioned days are gone, and that we cannot legislate ourselves back in time.
The many foreigners (be they Europeans, outsiders with European citizenship, or African/South American/Asians) in European clubs have greatly improved the quality of the game and the teams. I also believe it has pushed local players to be better, to improve themselves, because of the improved competitiveness.
And if the youth-training in some countries has not followed on this, that is where the problem lies, and not in the number of foreigners in the big teams!

As in many other things, globalisation is here to stay, and FIFA seems set on fighting it, with the consequence that football quality will deteriorate.

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