June 16, 2009 |

Anyone watching yesterday’s match up between the soccer juggernaut that is Brazil and an African country best known for pyramids and ancient dynasties may well have been surprised by the games result and the fact that the two teams are meeting in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament a year before the World Cup.  And anyone would be right in being perplexed. Held every four years, the Confederations Cup’s endorsed existence continues to boggle.

The competition, best described as World Cup Lite, is another example of a FIFA muscle-flexing exercise. The fact that many of the traditional powerhouses have opted not to compete (Germany and France most notably) in the tournament’s short history puts a bit of a ding in its credibility.

Ordinarily used to display the host country’s readiness for the following year’s World Cup, all it does is further cement an already established pecking order in world football – usually at the smaller nations’ expense. So it must be asked – Iraq? New Zealand? Really?

The argument could be made that all the teams involved deserve to be there by virtue of being their respective confederation champion’s. But did New Zealand (OFC) deserve the 5-0 drubbing by the current European champs, Spain? Did the paying fans in Jo’burg deserve the snorefest between Iraq (AFC) and South Africa (the hosts)? If it is going to be a showcase, why not just invite the world’s best in some other form of engineered tournament and leave the scrubbers in their respective tiny pots.

We’ve all read this script before. It’ll be the usual suspects featuring in the finale with the smaller federations acting as whetting stones for the inevitable fencing match that the final will provide.

Yes, we all watch in anticipation for the upset, the ski jump wreck. World Cups have provided some unexpected turn of events. Anything is possible. Maybe it’ll be like a South Korea beating an Italy or a Cameroon sneaking one by an Argentina. Although the likes of Denmark (who had recently won the European Championship) and Mexico (as the hosts they out-performed themselves as host nations often do) on the list of winners might suggest otherwise, it is the big boys that have traditionally battled it out for top honors with France and Brazil both winning it twice.

This could be a heavyweight tournament were it not just a self-congratulatory FIFA back pat – one that gives club team managers absolute fits. And for good reason. One or two of their top players will more than likely miss the first half of their respective domestic seasons due to some horrible injury sustained while being show ponies for FIFA in a Cup that is of so little worth.

As little as I like FIFA and their self-aggrandizing agendas, this is a world class soccer and it is in June. Not that I’m not mesmerized by the high drama of the Spelling Bee or the subtle sub text of Pro Bowling, but it’s nice to be able to watch good soccer in their stead.