Dubai – The great football festival is about to start in the United Arab Emirates, now in its eleventh year, with an ever-excellent cast, part of the International Sports Conference of the Dubai Sports Council. Globe Soccer and the Awards complete the programme which, for the first time, will have the President of FIFA on stage, the leading institution in world football. Gianni Infantino, who 12 months ago attended as a candidate, will confirm his immediate acceptance of the unanimous invitation for FIFA to take a new direction: opening up to the involvement of players in the governance of the organisation, approving the use of video replays for immediate experimentation (the VAR system), a new 48-team format for the World Cup and a new Club World Cup, on a two-yearly basis along the lines of the competition for national teams.
This has been an historic year of change in terms of records and surprises, something inevitably reflected in the candidates for the awards, with front seats guaranteed for
Leicester and Ranieri (together with Vardy and Marhez), Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Higuain as the setter of a record covering 100 years of football history, and Real Madrid’s record eleventh victory in the Champions League, just two years after the famous “Decima”.
For Ronaldo — World and European champion with his club, European champion with Portugal, winner of his fourth Ballon d’Or and a strong contender for the FIFA award to be presented in nine days — this 2016 season may well become a real milestone in his career. A likely third Award in Dubai will make it possible for him to sweep a treble of personal awards, in addition to the already enviable treble of international successes both with his club and his country.
The Globe Soccer jurors will be offer new awards to the Best Chinese Player and the Best Gulf Player, as well as an award for the Best Player in Europe among the many players of Arab origin. Benatia, who won in 2015, is a candidate alongside Salah (the Messi of Egypt, very popular here) and the Algerian player from Leicester, Riyad Mahrez.
The first day will see the CEO of AS Roma, Umberto Gandini, opening the conference and setting out the position of clubs, from the viewpoint of the ECA and from the experience of working with foreign and physically distant owners. Gandini has long been the Vice President of the European Club Association and is fully aware of the case brought to UEFA and FIFA, regarding the problem of international calendars and the use, in national teams, of costly professionals under contract with others. Among the issues to be addressed is also that of TV rights, and the viable expenditure by operators from around the world which is certainly not infinite: if they pay for the national teams, they reduce the income available to the clubs.
In the remaining sessions, there is still a taste of Italy with Carlo Tavecchio alongside the President of the Portuguese Federation, Fernando Gomes, and the leading referees (Collina, the refereeing officer and Rizzoli, still performing) to discuss the new technologies and the risks they present, together with Clattenburg, the Englishman who refereed the two most important finals last summer (the Champions League final and the Euro final in France).
On the evening of the Awards (which starts at 6 p.m. in Italy, 9 p.m. in Dubai) with TV channels from around the world broadcasting the event (produced by Dubai TV / for Italy Sky will broadcast on channel 200, Sky Sport 24), great expectation for the Italian trio ‘IL VOLO’, who are reviving the tradition connecting tenors with football, first coming to the fore in 1990 in Rome, with the World Cup concert by Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras. They will sing for Real Madrid and other worthy winners, but their presence suggests we might see them soon in some stadium for their own event.
After the Awards, the second session of the conference will be with operators, players and, finally, an eagerly awaited Gianni Infantino accompanied by the President of CONCACAF, Victor Montagliani, whose federation is in the running for the 2026 World Cup, when a 48-team format will be used, depending on the decision made by FIFA in the first week of 2017.
Fabio Capello, Salah, Eto’o and Javier Zanetti will be among the protagonists, along with Fernando Santos (European champion with Portugal) and Unai Enery (three-time winner of the Europa League).
Among the sheiks and football operators, it is almost certain that there will also be Diego Armando Maradona.