During the two days of the Dubai International Sports Conference numerous important issues for international football were discussed by the many guests who all gave their own personal contributions. Above all there was the eagerly awaited contribution from FIFA President Gianni Infantino who, in the main session of the Conference, spoke about the reforms at FIFA and the proposal for the new 48-team World Cup, something he regards as essential for the development of football internationally, giving every country the chance to grow in and for football. Among other main issues discussed were the new VAR system technology, the rapid globalisation of football in recent years and the importance of youth for the development of global football.
First to speak were the CEO of AS Roma Umberto Gandini and the owner of Legia Warsaw Dariusz Mioduski. Gandini spoke about the need for clubs to grow internationally, something which has been happening for several years with his club and which, with Salah, has reached new heights with booming interest in AS Rome from 4 million Egyptian fans, thanks to the player’s great performances. Mioduski instead wanted to talk about the new format for the Champions League, currently under preparation, a format to prevent the creation of a Super League that might leave most of the world unhappy, by relegating football to a small elite, excluding other countries from the opportunity of becoming a part of that.
The second session was dedicated to the federations, with the involvement of the FIGC President Carlo Tavecchio and the Portuguese Federation President Fernando Gomes. Tavecchio set out his position in favour of the new 48-team World Cup format proposed by Gianni Infantino’s new FIFA, reiterating that, for real development of football worldwide it is necessary to give everyone the chance to earn a place in a global event such as the World Cup. He then spoke about youth, 800 thousand youngsters, that the federation must help grow to ensure Italian football returns to the top of the game.
Gomes too, focussed very closely on youth during his speech, referring to the importance such players currently have in Portuguese football and have had for the champions of Europe, with eight U-23 players chosen for Euro 2016 and eleven of them used in World Cup qualification. Believing in youth is the only way to help a country grow in footballing terms. Without young players and their contribution, it is impossible to achieve long-term objectives.
The third session was dedicated to referees, Clattenburg and Rizzoli, together with UEFA’s chief refereeing officer Collina, who all spoke about the VAR and its importance in the development of a better form of football. The technology helps referees avoid mistakes which could affect the result of a match or of a whole tournament, mistakes which can have enormous consequences for the teams involved. It is not a question of undermining the role of the referee, but of enhancing it and making it even more effective: referees are human, and sometimes it is possible for even the best professionals to make a mistake.
The first day of the Conference ended with the Awards gala, which recognised the best of international football. Ronaldo, Salah, Amoory, Zheng Zhi, and Eto’o are just some of the names of the winners, each for their own footballing merits, and each from a different country. Globe Soccer thus celebrated globalisation, the very best of football around the world. The ceremony was once again enriched by the contribution of youth, this time not from the world of football, but the young men of the group “Il Volo”, who offered their own tribute to the award-winners, entertaining the public with their extraordinary voices.
The second day was dedicated, in its first two sessions, to coaches and players, those whose experience of football starts in the changing-rooms. Capello, Santos and Emery focussed on the importance of human contact with players: trusting in technology and statistics to make decisions is possible, but 50% of coaches’ choices must come from direct contact with the player. The coach must transmit their winning mentality to the players. Without this it is impossible to play the game.
Another issue addressed was that of the globalisation and expansion into Asia of world football. Capello and Emery spoke about this and stressed the importance for a coach of knowing a number of languages in an increasingly globalised world. But above all Zanetti spoke about the issue in the session dedicated to players, focussing on how serious is the desire of the Chinese group Suning, which owns 70% of his club Inter Milan, to make history with the Italian club by bringing funds and helping the club to return to the top of international football.
Regarding globalisation, the expert Samuel Eto’o, who in his career has played for more than 10 clubs, said with a smile that he was a real citizen of the world, a person who has learnt from football how to live with the different cultures he has come across. Globalisation was also the theme for the young player Mohamed Salah, who won over the audience by talking and joking about the difficulty of leaving his own country to follow his dream.
The final session, the main one and the most eagerly awaited, was chaired by Gianni Infantino who spoke in detail about FIFA’s new projects and the rebirth of a transparent and honest federation which wants to serve the game. Infantino’s project was clear: reforming the organisation from within and making it completely transparent to facilitate the healthy growth of football worldwide.
And this transparency which must be present in FIFA’s internal mechanisms, must also be found on the pitch, with the development of new technologies to help referees. Infantino admitted his initial scepticism about the VAR, but after seeing the positive results of the first tests, he was forced to change his mind. New technologies can make refereeing decisions much simpler when there are doubtful episodes which could impact single games or whole tournaments. Infantino then stated that the VAR is nothing more than an innovative system which is available to the referee, making decisions on the pitch more transparent, whose implementation can no longer be delayed.
But the most eagerly awaited item was the new 48-team World Cup. Infantino reiterated above all his belief in footballing democracy, stating that FIFA will listen carefully to all the federations in order to make a final decision on the matter. He then stressed the extent to which a change in this tournament is essential for the development of football worldwide, extending the opportunity to everyone to take part in such an important competition. In the interest of football growth, he also highlighted his inclination to accept joint bids by a number of countries to organise the event, again in order to make an offer to organise the tournament more accessible to those countries which do not have the necessary funds to organise a whole event by themselves.
The main session was then concluded by Victor Montagliani, the new CONCACAF President, who alongside Infantino made his own contribution by speaking of the importance of transparency and a well-structured approach in order to change an organisation which in the past has made a lot of mistakes. For the time being Montagliani said he was satisfied by the work undertaken together with his staff for the healthy growth of his Federation and he also expressed his appreciation for the work done by Infantino at FIFA and for their new projects.