As Brazil compete in the Confederations Cup, it’s an opportunity for them to improve their FIFA ranking ahead of next summer’s World Cup but do these ratings really matter?
The Ratings Game.
It’s a crazy place, the world of official sports ratings. Brazil beat France the other day in a friendly. After their draw with England it moved them up from the nether regions of the FIFA rankings list. They had dropped so low because they have not had to play any qualifying games as they are the hosts of the next World Cup. So the rankings list is no real reflection of their quality.
Recent victories for Serena Williams at the Paris Open and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the snooker World Championship have got me thinking along the same lines. Both of them are clearly streets ahead of the opposition in their respective sports. They have both been criticised for picking and choosing the tournaments they play in and slipped down the official rankings because they refused to grind out match after match in lesser tournaments all around the world just to garner rating points. They then make a mockery of the ratings by blasting away all opposition with apparent ease when they do make an appearance in the tournaments that matter to them personally. And then there is Rafa Nadal in tennis. After breaking the record for winning the most grand slams at one tournament in Paris last weekend, he did not move up in the World rankings. This is despite the fact that he also won it last year. Yet the player he beat did move up because despite losing to Nadal, he did a bit better than last year.
All of these ranking systems seem to be designed to coerce the sportspeople to living their lives like a hamster on a wheel. The rewards for success are great but why would the great players want to live like that? What is significant for these players is the prestige of the tournament, if they carry the kudos of being a real champion.
That brings me back to the disrespect shown to real champions in the allocation of Champions League places in English Football. Awarding places to non-champions, runners up, even 4th placed teams is rewarding the hamsters who do a bit better on the treadmill throughout the season than the others. They are no more champions than all the also-rans on the tennis and snooker circuits. On the other hand, if you actually win a competition, you have proven yourself a champion. UEFA have now recognised it by allocating a Champions League place to the winners of the Europa League. It’s time we did the same for the winners of the FA Cup and the League Cup. This would ensure that the biggest teams take them seriously, like Williams and Sullivan in the major competitions in their respective sports.