Saturday round-up: Juventus, World Cup, FIFA

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Morning all, a quick Saturday round-up.

Arsenal play Juventus this evening in what is our final (public) game of Pre-Season 2, the Re-Seasoning. I say public because I wouldn’t rule out a behind closed doors game at some point next week as teams look to get themselves match-sharp for the resumption of the Premier League.

The previous two games have gone well, beating Lyon 3-0 and AC Milan 2-1, and tonight we could see the return of some more of the World Cup attendees. Whether it’s too soon for the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli remains to be seen, but we should see Granit Xhaka back in action.

The game is at 6pm this evening, and I don’t know where anyone can watch it. There’s no video via the official website which is a bit odd considering they sold the games in the Dubai Super Cup, but either way I’m not around to watch it so I wish you all the very best of luck finding some kind of coverage. Will it be like the Carabao Cup game against Brighton which was, like an old man with prostate problems in the middle of the night, streamless.

Update: Turns out it’s available on – and reportedly on Juventus’ official website for free.

If you’re more local and at a loose end, it looks like there are still tickets available:

At the World Cup, football’s most pointless game – the third/fourth place play-off – takes place today between Croatia and Morocco. Honestly, I think it’s verging on cruel to put players through this, not to mention fans who are still dealing with the heartbreak of a semi-final defeat. The only ones who might be thankful for it are the players who didn’t get to play much and who might now be given a chance, but ultimately they must realise it’s because this game doesn’t matter and I’m sure they’d all rather be at home.

Meanwhile, from the France squad come reports of illness, including Ibrahima Konate and Raphael Varane. I know William Saliba has had a wonderful season for Arsenal, but imagine his first start at a World Cup was in the final. I don’t think it will happen as there are suggestions Varane is already feeling better, and Didier Deschamps prefers the clumsy Dayot Upamecano to Big Willy as it stands, but it’s one to keep half an eye on.

It’ll be all eyes on Qatar tomorrow for the final, as this World Cup comes to an end. No doubt there’ll be plenty of reflection and discussion, and I thought Ken Early wrote a fantastic piece in the Irish Times yesterday. Having spent a month in Doha, his observations on the city and the tournament are really interesting. Unfortunately, it’s for subscribers only, but luckily for you guys, I happened to chance across this where somebody seems to have pasted the entire text of the article. You could simply read it there, or copy and paste the text into Word or Google Docs and adjust the font to make it easier to read. The Internet truly is a wonder.

Published on the same day that FIFA announced the creation of a new 32 team Club World Cup competition, it’s hard to escape the idea that the inextricable link between football and money will be at the forefront of most discussions about the game going forward. Who wants this? Who asked for it? Who needs it? Nobody, except FIFA.

FIFA’s remit is, via their website, “FIFA exists to govern football and to develop the game around the world. Since 2016, the organisation has been fast evolving into a body that can more effectively serve our game for the benefit of the entire world.”

But we know that’s nonsense. FIFA exists to benefit FIFA and to swell its already bursting coffers. Gianni Infantino, like some kind of marble-headed Croesus, is set to preside over this decadent boy’s club of corruption until 2031, and everything FIFA does is to boost international football at the expense of club football. There was a time international football was the pinnacle of the game but it was overtaken as clubs got better and richer and smarter, as the barriers to the best talent travelling were knocked down.

The Premier League, the other big leagues in Europe, and the Champions League in particular are nominally where you see the best players and the best football. FIFA hated that, and what FIFA does is designed to tip that balance back the other way, as well as make it lots more money. And in doing so, they show they have not got the slightest regard for player welfare. Injuries? They don’t care. The quality of the ‘product’ when players are playing 11.5 months of the year? They don’t care, because schedule = TV rights, and ads, and sponsorships, and maintains a lifestyle for these FIFA execs that is pampered, jet-set, 5-star and has nothing even remotely to connect it to real football fans.

I know for some people, sympathy for young men who get to play football for a living and who are extraordinarily well paid might be in short supply, but fantastic wealth doesn’t turn you into Superman. It doesn’t prevent injury, it doesn’t insulate you from mental health issues or the realities of normal life, because at the end of the day they’re just human and all of us have problems and difficulties relative to our own lives.

Which is to say, burn FIFA to the ground. Metaphorically. Or literally. I couldn’t care less. This organisation does not operate in the best interests of football, it sees you and me as irrelevant serfs with wallets they will empty over and over again, and it cares nothing at all for the players they pretend to laud publicly but whose only use to them is to garner even more obscene wealth.

Sometimes when you write, words just flow. That was, unlike the old man with prostate problems in the middle of the night, a heavy flow.

Have a great Saturday.

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