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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Figo's Bid for FIFA President Presents American Ideals

Luis Figo's candidacy was interesting to hear about when it was first rumored a week or so back because he is a former great player who is widely respected for his accomplishments and sportsmanship on the field.  He became that much more interesting when he introduced his manifesto to the press this past week.

Of the four candidates to submit their candidacy to become president of FIFA, Figo is really the only one bringing wide-ranging ideals for change.

Most of the proposals he is suggesting have embedded American characteristics to them.  There is one significant exception, though.

In looking at his grandest and most significant plan for FIFA's future, the idea to expand the World Cup tournament, there can be no doubt that this idea feels American.

One only has to look at our college basketball tournament to see similarities.  The NCAA tournament has made periodic expansions to include more schools since the tournament's inception.  What began with eight teams in 1939 is now up to 68 teams since 2011.

Americans love the underdog and more entries gives us that many more chances to see the underdogs succeed.  Americans also are very keen to fairness.

Bubble teams has been the issue for a lot of years when it comes to the NCAA basketball tournament. Sometimes, a bubble team will lose a potential spot in the main tournament when it loses in its conference tournament.

In soccer, there are also bubble teams losing out in the qualifying rounds. There are some bubble teams that have already beaten a main tournament team or qualifier, but the circumstances didn't turn out in their favor.  More teams/countries included can only mean some additional fairness took part in the process.

Another agreeable suggestion made by Figo includes spreading the wealth of FIFA to more grassroots soccer all over the world.  Implementing his idea will take some of FIFA's billion dollars of reserve money and give more hope to football/soccer associations, including areas of the world most in need of a boost to their soccer profile.

This idea to use the reserves is a noble one as long as it has an inclusion for education.  Soccer and education monies from FIFA would benefit regions that are war-torn, influenced by Muslim extremism and extremely impoverished.  Sports as a way out of dire straits or a method for improvement in life is definitely an American ideal.

Figo also wants to bring more technology to the game.  The accuracy and expediency of technology offers the possibility for reviews to off-sides or hand-balls during the game.  We already have seen the effects for several years in the U.S. of doing what is necessary with technology to get the calls as correct as possible by referees while not upsetting a major flow in the game.

The last of Figo's Americanizing ideas put forth is the one in which he says that soccer can take a cue from the NHL.  A player can be penalized by sitting out a period of time for an egregious foul without being completely expelled (red carded), thus putting 10 players versus 11 during the players's time off the field.  This is being referred to as a sin-bin.

Unfortunately, Figo wants to go un-American when it comes to the off-sides rule.  He is asking to go back to how it was in the recent past, when a player not involved in a particular play can be called as off-sides and basically ruin any good run or goal scored by his/her teammates.

This vantage point of Figo's shows us how important it is that an American become President of FIFA.  For all the good points he had made in getting his run for the presidency in order, he still is not American and not the game-changer that soccer needs to modernize and get the game to the best possible levels.

Thinking like an American is good, but nothing quite compares to being one.

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