Have you ever wondered how it is that Ghana, the team that drew 2-2 to eventual champions Germany at the last World Cup did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup Finals and is currently ranked only 47th in the FIFA world rankings? Or why Nigeria is ranked 48th despite being good enough to reach the round of 16 at the last World Cup finals? Or why there’s not a single team in the FIFA top 25 from Africa? The answer might surprise you.
The FIFA ranking system awards European and South American teams more points for a win or a draw than teams from Africa and other continents get. This is because European and South American teams performed better at previous World Cup Finals which (as I’ll explain later) is largely due to the fact that they are unfairly given most of places in the World Cup Finals.
EUFA (Europe) and CONMEBOL (South America) have been assigned a confederation “weighting” (multiplier) of 1 compared to African and Asian teams who have a multiplier of 0,85.
This essentially means that European teams and South American teams are are awarded 18% more Fifa rankings points for a win or draw than African or Asian teams will make playing each other in an equally difficult match (rankings wise).
So when European and South American teams play against each other in their respective confederations’ championship qualifiers and finals, World Cup qualifiers and other regular internationals and friendlies, they get 18% more points per win or draw than African and Asian countries get when they play each other in their respective confederations championship qualifiers and finals, World Cup qualifiers and finals and other regular internationals and friendlies.
Furthermore, there are also “match status multipliers”: Points gained in freindlies are multiplied by 1. Points gained in FIFA World Cup and Continental cup qualifiers are multiplied by 2.5. Continental cup and Confederations Cup finals points are multiplied by 3, and World Cup finals points are multiplied by 4.
That in itself is fair, but then consider this: Almost half of the places in the World Cup Finals are reserved exclusively for European teams!
Despite Africa being three times larger in size and with almost over 50% more population than Europe, the 52 African nations in Africa are allowed only 5 places in the World Cup finals compared to Europe’s 52 nations being guaranteed 13 places at the finals.
In other words 13 European teams are given the opportunity to play those highest scoring matches in the World Cup finals where the “match status multiplier” is 4 while only 5 African teams will be playing matches scoring those high ranking points.
So it is clear the FIFA world rankings cannot be an accurate reflection of results or current ability because they unfairly favour European and South American teams who are ranked higher than they would be if they were not given a disproportionate amount of places at the World Cup finals or if ranking points were awarded without confederation weighting.
And ironically, because match points are also multiplied by an “opposition strength multiplier”, this false higher ranking means European and South American teams playing each other in their respective continental cup qualifiers and finals, World Cup qualifiers, regular internationals and friendlies again earn even more points for those match wins and draws than African teams (who have falsely been ranked lower) earn playing similar matches and tournaments.
And then to top it all, these false rankings are used as justification to continue the blatantly biased FIFA World Cup Finals qualification regulations that guarantee Europe 13 places compared to Africa’s 5.
Can you imagine how many World Cup finals Africa would have won by now if we had been given 13 places at every single World Cup over many decades as Europe has? How strong would our teams be if the players of 13 African teams had been given all that big match experience every 4 years?
Furthermore, our clubs would benefit from the exposure of African players on the international stage as fans would flock to see the World Cup stars. And more African players would gain experience and exposure on the world stage.
The federations making it to the finals also get handsome monetary rewards for their participation and successes there…money that is intented for development of the sport in those countries. Why are European nations exclusively given these massive windfalls?
We African soccer fans deserve an equal opportunity to watch our teams compete at the World Cup Finals. And our athletes deserve an equal chance to compete in a fair competition.
No other sport exclusively reserves half the spots in the finals for a specific continent’s athletes. The FIFA World Cup is not a fair completion and the FIFA world rankings are biased.
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the quality of European and South American football, but let’s not pretend that the quality of their football has not benefitted from the biased ranking system and the fact that half of the South American teams and a quarter of European teams are mollycoddled into the World Cup every 4 years and gain valuable, experience, exposure and monetary reward from being there. A large part of their success and good form must be attributed to the regular exposure of so many of their top teams to the World Cup finals, the big match experience their players gain from it, and the money the federations receive for competing in the finals.
And before you say the European and South American teams deserve being guaranteed more spots because they are that good, consider that they’ve never won those extra spots through fair competition. The first world cups did not start with equal continental representation and gradually evolve to the current status quo. The places at the World Cup finals have been skewed towards those continents from the get go. Their spots have always been politically won and not sportingly won. If they are that good let them win their spots in a fair competition.