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LETTER | Honour Pele with an international football tourney

LETTER | Football superstar Pele, who died on Dec 29 last year, needs to be remembered by FIFA and the football fraternity through a tournament named after him.

FIFA has asked national football associations to name a stadium after him to honour the football legend. Qatar, which hosted the just concluded World Cup and had built eight new stadiums, can start the ball rolling by naming one of the stadia after Pele.

Meanwhile, there are already World Cups for men, women, youth, and clubs. FIFA can initiate one more international tournament to remember Pele.

Recently, during the Qatar World Cup, one of the most revealing facts was a major improvement and higher standard of football in a number of low-ranked and underdog countries compared to the powerhouses in the sport.

This major leap in quality can be attributed to more footballers playing for foreign clubs, especially in Europe, the present epicentre of global football. Another reason is due to the many tournaments being played by their national teams as compared to a few decades back.

One more good reason could be the large allocations by FIFA during Sepp Blatter’s long tenure to improve the quality of the beautiful game in many of the developing countries.

Regional tournaments like the ongoing AFF Cup among the Asean nations have provided more avenues to improve and prepare for major tournaments.

One of the best ways to improve the standard of football is by having more regional tournaments to pick the best nations from the regions and have a world tournament. 

It can be named the Pele Cup after the greatest footballer in history. This world tournament will honor him and his football skills and wizardry.

FIFA can sanction or create more regional tournaments other than the existing ones. Thus, for Asia there will be Southeast Asian, East Asian, South Asian, Central Asian, and Middle eastern regions. For Africa, it will be the North African, Central African, and Southern African regions.

Similarly, Europe too can be divided into three regions - East European, Central European, and West European. The Americas can be divided into the Northern region comprising Canada, US, and Mexico, the central region comprising the Caribbean nations, and finally the South American region.

Australia, New Zealand, and the Polynesian islands could be grouped into a region also.

Some regions, especially with the lower-ranked countries will benefit more from this regional tournament than others such as those in the European continent.

To make it truly global, all regions and nations can be invited to participate. Participation can be done via a regional tournament or if hosting or expenditure is a problem, other ways can be sought.

One way will be to base it on the FIFA rankings for regions. For example, if Malaysia, grouped in SEA, is ranked 145 and there are no other regional nations lower than this rank, then Malaysia will play in the Pele Cup finals against other regional winners.

FIFA has the latest, realistic, and unbiased ranking system that can be relied upon for the selection of regional winners. This will also motivate developing and lower-ranked countries to play more friendly matches to improve their ranking and aim higher for a chance to play in the biennial or triennial Pele Cup.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.