Archive | December 2016

Should FIFA increase World Cup teams to 48?

By Frederick Mordi

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In January 2017, FIFA, the world football governing body, will meet to discuss the possibility of increasing the number of teams playing at the World Cup, from the current 32 teams to 48. If the proposal manages to sail through, it will give more countries from FIFA’s 211 members, the opportunity of participating in the world’s biggest single-event sporting competition. The last time FIFA increased the number of teams competing at a World Cup tournament was in 1998, when it added eight more countries to the original 24, bringing the total to 32 countries.

However, the 48-team format is not likely to become effective until 2026, as the current 32-team format will be used both in the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to be hosted by Russia and Qatar, respectively. The idea was part of the campaign manifesto of FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, who insists global football federations are “overwhelmingly in favour” of the initiative.

In Infantino’s own words: “If we can have a format that does not add any additional matches but brings so much joy to those who don’t have the chance to participate, then we will have to think about that.”

Money and politics appear to be the driving force behind the idea. FIFA research claims that by using the 48-team format, revenue could rise by about 20% to $6.5 billion, while profit would potentially increase by $640 million. FIFA, which explains that its decision is not financial, adds that the initiative will help in bringing the beautiful game to all.

However, the European Clubs Association, an influential stakeholder in world football, is not sold on the idea, over concerns bordering on ‘quality.’ While FIFA also accepts that there could be a drop in quality, it insists there is a need to give every nation a sense of belonging. This may be in line with the well-known saying attributed to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who is regarded as the father of modern Olympic Games: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.”

It is also not unlikely that European nations that currently have 13 slots out of the 32, making the continent the highest, will continue to enjoy its dominance. But Africa and Asia may benefit more from the process by getting extra slots.

Since the World Cup started in 1930, Europe has won 11 times: Italy (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006); Germany (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014): England (1966); France (1998); and Spain (2010). South America has won nine times: Uruguay (1930, 1950); Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002); and Argentina (1978, 1986). The other four continents namely Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, and Oceania, have yet to win the trophy. This means that only eight out of over 200 FIFA member nations have won the World Cup, since inception.

Giving more teams the opportunity to participate in the World Cup, will benefit poorer countries and even things out a bit.

 

Kanu, 6 other Africans listed among 48 football legends

By Frederick Mordi

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Kanu Nwankwo, the lanky ex-skipper of Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles, made the list of the world’s best 48 football legends that was recently released by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). According to IFFHS, a body that keeps an account of the records of footballers, the list is based on the positions the footballers played in the game in their heyday.

Apart from Kanu, who was the only nominated Nigerian, six other Africans made the list. They include: Mahmoud El-Khatib and Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt); Rabah Madjer (Algeria); Roger Milla (Cameroun); George Weah (Liberia); and Lucas Radebe (South Africa).

The body rated Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele (Brazil), as the number one football legend in the world. Pele’s rival, Diego Amando Maradona of Argentina, also made the list that paraded other legends such as Eusebio and Luis Figo (Portugal); Dino Zoff and Roberto Baggio (Italy); and Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini (France). Others include: Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Lothar Matthäus (Germany); Johannes Cruijff, Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit (the Netherlands); and Bobby Charlton, David Beckham and Stanley Matthews (England).

Kanu’s nomination did not come as a surprise as he boasts impressive records. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) recently named Kanu, who won ‘African Player of the Year‎’ ‎award twice, as one of the 10 best players the continent has produced in the last 50 years. In addition, Kanu featured prominently at Ajax in the Netherlands and Arsenal in the EPL, where he won UEFA trophies for his clubs. He also won the Olympics gold medal for the Nigeria U-23 football team in 1996.

His latest recognition is well deserved given his antecedents.

10 facts about Ogunlesi, Trump’s new economic adviser

By Frederick Mordi

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The President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump, recently appointed Adebayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian based in the US, as a member of his Strategic and Policy Forum.

The Forum is made up of some of America’s finest and most respected corporate titans such as Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone; Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co; Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President/CEO, IBM; and Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO, General Electric (GE). The team members are expected to help Trump shape his ambitious economic agenda.

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Ogunlesi, the surprise name on the list, has some interesting pedigree that justifies his inclusion among America’s successful business leaders. Here are 10 facts about Ogunlesi that you may find interesting:

Fact #1: Ogunlesi was born in Nigeria in 1953, and has an impressive track record of academic accomplishments, a trait that runs in the family. His father is the first Nigerian professor of medicine.

Fact #2: He is the Chairman and Managing Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a New York-based independent investment fund, with worldwide interest in infrastructure financing.

Fact #3: He made the headlines in 2010 when GIP bought Gatwick Airport, London’s second largest. For this reason, he is referred to as ‘the Nigerian who bought Gatwick Airport.’

Fact #4: He is often described as one of Wall Street’s smartest money managers. Time magazine profiled him among 15 Most-promising Young Executives in its list of 2002 Global Influentials, while Fortune ranked him as the Seventh Most Powerful Black Executive in the United States.

Fact #5: He studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford University, where he bagged a bachelor’s degree with honours. He also attended Harvard Law School, where he became one of the first two editors of African descent, to serve together on the influential Harvard Law Review.

Fact #6: After leaving Harvard, he served as a law clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1980 to 1983, making him the first non-American to serve in this capacity at the nation’s highest court.

Fact #7: In 1983, Ogunlesi joined the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He practiced law for only nine months before he was invited for discussions by First Boston, an investment bank, which later offered him a job. It was at First Boston that he received the grooming that has today, made him highly sought after.

Fact #8: When the Credit Suisse Group acquired First Boston in 1997, the new entity was renamed Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). The chief executive of CSFB, John Mack, once described Ogunlesi thus: “Bayo Ogunlesi is a banker of powerful intellect, integrity and innovation. He has a broad global perspective and keen understanding of complex financial transactions. Our clients worldwide have benefited greatly from his strategic insights.”

Fact#9: Despite his long years of living in Europe and America, Ogunlesi still manages to stay in touch with developments at home. He has been at the vanguard of championing African economic renaissance, which is gradually taking roots across the continent.

Fact#10: Though Ogunlesi has never had the full opportunity of working for the Nigerian government, he had served former President Olusegun Obasanjo as an adviser in an informal capacity, particularly on privatisation matters.

Ogunlesi, no doubt, is an inspiration to this generation, and his appointment by Trump, has debunked negative stereotypes about Nigeria and Africa.