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Is Infantino Transforming Soccer for Better or for Worse?

Infantino's arrival as FIFA president brought about many changes in modern soccer. What are the most outstanding?.

Gianni Infantino, FIFA President

Photo: Александр Вепрёв

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿Infantino está transformando el fútbol para bien o para mal?

In 2015, the Italian-Swiss lawyer Gianni Infantino decided to run for the presidency of FIFA, after obtaining the unanimous support of the UEFA Executive Committee  The objective? Recover credibility in this institution, after various corruption scandals that affected former President Sepp Blatter.

Well, the truth is that on February 26, 2016, Infantino was elected as the new president of FIFA. Although it was believed that his government would be "transitional", the reality is that modern soccer is undergoing a very important transformation, with quite notable changes.

The changes proposed and implemented by Infantino

A clear example occurred with the last published proposal that seeks to change the time of the matches. The idea is that soccer matches stop having 45 minutes in each half and start having 50. In other words, FIFA will seek to have much more entertainment time than we currently have.

This would be sought to apply from the Qatar 2022 World Cup, although it is clear that it will not be easy for them to end up accepting it. In addition, the ultimate goal of the Swiss is that this is a kind of "test" that can lead to another of his goals: that soccer becomes a net time sport.

The arguments? Well, from their perspective, viewers and fans pay for 90 minutes of soccer, but the interruptions mean that some games have less than 50 actual minutes of playing. So, in the future, soccer could become like basketball, where the clock stops under certain circumstances.

This would be a true revolution, since it would imply that all athletes must last longer on the court. However, they are not the only planned objectives. For example, Infantino also seeks to maintain the five regulatory changes that were implemented in the pandemic, instead of the maximum of three “of a lifetime”. The same would happen with the number of teams in the World Cup, as they would go from 32 to 48 teams from 2026, to increase inclusion and competitiveness.

In this same sense, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will also be "historic" in several ways. For example, this time 26 players will be called up, instead of the maximum of 23. This allows coaches to have more alternatives on the substitute bench. However, there are also changes in relation to the date.

Let us remember that the Qatar World Cup 2022 will be played at the end of the year, unlike what happened in previous editions that took place in the middle of the year. This decision was made due to the high temperatures in Qatar, which made it difficult for this tournament to be played between June and July.

Another of the changes being sought is the possibility of holding the World Cups and European Championships every two years, instead of the four to which we are accustomed. It will be necessary to see if this will also be applied in the Copa América, since this contest will be held again every 4 years, since the next edition will be in 2024.

On the other hand, we must also highlight the incursion of the controversial VAR. Also known as Video Assistant Referee, it is a technology that is applied only in cases of goals, penalties, direct expulsions and identity confusion, with the aim of reducing refereeing errors.

Also read: International soccer stars who will not go to the Qatar 2022 World Cup

That is, if a controversial situation is identified , the judges review it and inform the central referee so that they can make a more objective final decision. Therefore, the judges are in communication with the VAR specialists, who have the necessary technology to reduce errors.

This change brings benefits and problems. Regarding the former, it reduces injustices in very important matches. For example, in the round of 16 of South Africa 2010 we remember Lampard's famous “ghost goal”. The Englishman had scored a goal that was not validated since the referee did not see it. The final result? Germany won 4-1 and went through to the quarterfinals.

If at that time there had been a VAR, it is possible that the dynamics of the game would have been different. However, it also implies problems, since the matches are "paralyzed" for several seconds (something that, paradoxically, Infantino wants to change) and many results are left to the mercy of the final interpretation of the referee.

Although some projects (such as the increase in the number of players called up or the number of substitutions allowed) do not arouse so much controversy, others do. The clearest case is that of the World Cup every 2 years, as there are those who indicate that this will "kill" soccer, since the number of champions will increase and the event will lose emotion. On the other hand, there are those who think that this will generate more investments and expectations, since we could all live more global during our life.

Thus, for better or worse, it is clear that Infantino is changing the rules of the game. Only time will tell whether or not these transformations benefit one of the most popular sports on the planet. And you, what do you think about these transformations?