FIFA World Cup™ winner Ronaldo has stated that discussions in relation to the international match calendar were part of the “natural evolution” of football in order that “football keeps evolving with the new generation” and maintains the sport’s relevance for the long term.
The former Brazilian international forward, capped 98 times for the Seleção, was speaking at a press conference at the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Doha, Qatar, of the FIFA Technical Advisory Group on the future of men’s football, which featured star players who were invited to give their views on proposals from FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger.
“I am very optimistic about the changes, I have no reservations, and I have no doubts that the World Cup will continue to be the most prestigious event on the planet,” the two-time FIFA World Cup winner said. “The current calendar, as far as the World Cup is concerned, was conceived almost 100 years ago, and so the world has completely changed since then. I believe that the moment has come for us to evolve with them, with the new generations, the fast-paced information – this is very important for us, and I believe that.”
“You know, for instance, you can’t have missed the Russia World Cup (in 2018),” added Ronaldo. “It was amazing: incredible matches, a great spectacle. Off the pitch, everything worked out perfectly. We do miss that, and four years is too long of a period. So, I think that many countries would be in favour of this idea because there’ll be an increase in their opportunities to participate in a World Cup. I remember, as a child, my dream was to play in a World Cup. For all of my friends, everyone I’ve known throughout my life, it was our dream to play in a World Cup. With this change, more and more people will be able to see this dream become a reality.”
“I think that we are on the right path; the message is very positive,” he added. “At the beginning, it may be a bit difficult to understand for some people, but I think it’s quite simple, and it’s very objective and transparent. All these changes are thought of so that players have less travel and fans can enjoy more and better football.”
Tim Cahill, who represented Australia at four World Cup final tournaments, stressed the importance of such transparency throughout the process, pointing out the need for global investment to maintain and build football.
“I feel now, after the presentation, with the transparency of what Arsène Wenger has put together, thinking about the future, when you have 166 countries asking for the feasibility, it’s really important that everyone can do their due diligence and add some context, which has been added today. I’m really, really forward-thinking when it comes to player development, to reinvestment of the money going into 133 countries never qualifying for a World Cup, the opportunity to make them more competitive with the investment and, on top of that, 150 countries that need investment to stay alive as federations.”
Peter Schmeichel, a quarter-finalist for Denmark in the 1998 World Cup in France, highlighted his support for mandatory rest periods for players, one of the key principles of Wenger’s proposal.
“I agree (that) the calendar, in many ways, is a little bit outdated,” the former goalkeeper, who was capped 129 times for Denmark, said. “I have personal experiences of coming back from a World Cup, where I was directly (put) into maybe the two most important games that we had to play that season, qualifying for the (UEFA) Champions League, and I had no break. And I think one of the more important, or most important, propositions in what has (been) created here is that mandatory 25-day break that, hopefully, will be written into the rules that you’ll get as a football player because that’s the problem. If you are a successful player, you will burn out at some point.”