It came as no surprise to hear that on the eve of Australia’s second consecutive Asian Cup final appearance some federations within Asia would like to see Australia returned to Oceania.
This site has covered many of the issues that have been building up and gaining more momentum since 2010. If Australia manages to lift the trophy tonight then many will feel that this will strengthen their position to remain a part of Asia. However it may just have the opposite effect, as with victory will come a lucrative trip to the Confederations Cup a year out from the World Cup in Russia.
If that were to happen Australia would not be the first to suffer such a fate. As the host nation Israel won the Asian Cup in 1964 and were then exiled in 1974 before finally joining UEFA in 1991.
Australia’s best hope will be a change at the top of FIFA, and it may well be that Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein may be their best hope to topple Sepp Blatter as President. The trouble is with so many candidates putting their hands up, and Africa pledging allegiance to Blatter once more, all that may happen is the various candidates dilute the votes from the other confederations and see Blatter sail home yet again.
According to Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein “reform is crucial.” He has also stated “We have to bring the administration of sport into the current time we live in. I want to bring back that confidence.”
He has also stated that “in the coming months I will be looking to sit down and talk to all our member associations and listen to them. I am not coming in to dictate. I have my ideas but I have to hear back from my colleagues.”
There are many who feel that the World Cup finals may well be opened up to all and rather than having qualification places allocated to various confederations a draw will be carried out which will see the possibility of European teams having to play, African, South American or Asian opposition in order to qualify. Qualification will then be based purely on merit and the Finals will witness the truly top 32 teams in the world.
There is a problem with this plan, what to do with Oceania. This is without doubt the weakest confederation within FIFA. There are some who feel that the confederation should be split, with Australia and New Zealand and the more northerly island nations been incorporated into Asia and play a tournament to go into the main draw. The other nations be absorbed into Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and play under the same conditions.
For Australia to be returned to Oceania would be ruinous for the game, that has made such strong advances in the last ten years within the nation’s psyche. It would also have a knock on effect on the game in New Zealand as currently they are almost always guaranteed a great chance to qualify for a World Cup, but via one play off match. When they qualified for the 2010 finals New Zealand knocked out a team from Asia, Bahrain, and it was perceived that Australia had helped New Zealand knock out one of its Asian counterparts by having the Wellington Phoenix play in the A-League.
There have been many other issues that have irked members of the Asian Confederation and it would be wise for Australia to show a little humility should they win tonight. The same applies to their post analysis of their hosting of the tournament as a whole.
One thing is clear the FFA are going to clean up their act in terms of how Asia perceives them and the way they operate. They will have their work cut out for them in the months up until the FIFA elections in May, and they will have to think very carefully who they align themselves to, as their future will clearly depend on it.