The Socceroos, part of the Asian Football Confederation, found themselves travelling half the circumference of the globe to get to and from some of their FIFA World Cup qualification games. Is the AFC too big?
As an avid Socceroos fan, I’ve written about this before so it’s about time the AFC took notice… The Asian Football Confederation is too big and ought to be split into East and West.
What’s more, the East should absorb Oceania, which is pretty much pointless as its own confederation. If they were involved in better competition they might evolve into something bigger. More on that below…
There are a couple of excellent reasons for splitting Asia.
For a start, Asia is huge. The travel logistics are a nightmare and very expensive for anyone without access to Petrodollars. Asian tournaments (especially Champions League) are hellish for travellers, so drawing a line just east of India would be a major benefit for all involved. Especially the junior teams and fans.
West Asia would have approximately 24 countries stretching from Bangladesh to Jordan, and the East would have all the rest, plus Oceania.
The second reason to split, is that (some of) the Arabic nations have never wanted Australia in Asia and still subtly agitate for our expulsion. They are not without influence, but such a split would permanently put an end to that Machiavellian politicking.
As we move into the next World Cup qualifying round (for 2026), there will be 48 places up for grabs. Asia, as it stands, will have eight places and Oceania one.
Personally, I think 48 is too many but FIFA are clearly trying to get more of the smaller countries involved, which is fair enough, but it also means that finalists will only be guaranteed two matches in the group phase (16 groups of three). The top two in each group will then enter a knockout phase.
This means that West Asia and East Asia (+ Oceania) will share 9 places. Logically, that would mean four places for West Asia and five for East. Although, it might be argued on the basis of historical appearances that East Asia deserves an extra half-spot meaning West Asia 3.5 and East Asia 5.5, but the West would never agree to that.
The West (I imagine) would have Iran, Iraq, Saudi, Qatar, UAE, Jordan, Syria, Uzbekistan as the main contenders for a place at the World Cup. Four places massively improves the (current) chances of countries other than Iran and Saudi.
The East would have Australia, Japan, Korean Republic, China, Vietnam and Thailand as main contenders, with New Zealand also a contender, for five places. New Zealand would lose their (pretty much) guaranteed spot in Oceania, but would find themselves in a far stronger talent pool which would have to be better for their football in the long term. It would also give them access to the Asian Cup and ACL. (Or EACL)
For the smaller football nations in both East and West this would be a powerful incentive to improve as World Cup (and East Asian Cup) qualification would be far less daunting than it is at present. Also, the smaller countries would get more regular competition against stronger nations which can only be good for their football long term.
As for the Asian Cup, the champions of East and West would play off home and away to decide the Asian Super Cup.
So for economic, logistic, political and football reasons, the split is a really good idea. East is East and West is West, and only occasionally the twain should meet.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel will be published by Hague Publishing in 2022.
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