December 22, 2014
100th anniversary tournament
The Copa América is the oldest international competition in the world, but it was wrongly named from the start. It was created as a South American championship for national teams and not for all America. Some years ago, organizers began inviting other countries, first only from North and Central America, but later also from elsewhere which spoilt its essence as a South American tournament and today the most important tournament for South Americans is the qualifying competition for the World Cup (although the World Cup holder is sometimes missing) in which countries play one another home and away. (Although it might be a good idea for the holders to participate in one of the most difficult qualifying groups.)
The only reason for inviting countries from outside this continent is the same which has wrecked competitions in many other sports — to widen the TV coverage which means more money. But these invited countries often turned up with weakened teams, because the Gold Cup played in North America, which is similar to the Copa América, was played practically at the same time. Now, after having been talked about for a long time, a tournament for countries from the entire American continent has finally been arranged to take place in the local winter of 2016 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the America Cup, better known as Copa América.
As mentioned in the Herald, 16 countries will take part — all 10 from South America plus most Gold Cup winners US and Mexico and four others from Central America and the Caribbean which will have to qualify. This will be organized jointly by the South American and North & Central American Football Federations and its officials rightly say that it would be a pity to have to wait another 100 years to do it again.
The problem is that in the eternal battle between club and country and an overloaded fixture list this would be yet another year in which players of leading countries would be training and playing in the middle of the year which is the close season in Europe — starting with last year’s Confederation Cup, this year’s World Cup, next year’s regular Copa América followed by this new tournament — so when do internationals get a rest? American officials will try and get FIFA to make the tournament official so that clubs will be obliged to release players. Otherwise, many star players might be missing, UEFA, the European Football Union and its clubs will surely complain. That battle has not started yet!