“In November’s Fifa rankings, Macedonia FYR fell to 155th place, the worst position in the country’s history. Their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup have all but disappeared, the national team reflecting the desperate state of Macedonian football. Milko Djurovski is a former Yugoslavia international and the brother of the former Macedonia FYR head coach Boško. …” The Blizzard
Uganda, celebrating a goal against Botswana, is one of the teams that are likely to benefit the most from the coming World Cup expansion.
“While the soccer world was chewing over FIFA’s controversial decision on Tuesday to increase the size of the World Cup finals to 48 teams from 32, Milutin Sredojevic was trying to block out the noise. Sredojevic, a Serbian coach, is in Dubai preparing Uganda’s national team for the Africa Cup of Nations, the continental championship that begins Saturday in Gabon. Uganda, which is in the tournament for the first time since 1978, is a heavy underdog. Yet despite Sredojevic’s best efforts to focus on the task ahead, news of the expansion, which could benefit smaller federations like Uganda’s, filtered through anyway.” NY Times
“The World Cup will grow to 48 teams within a decade under a plan approved unanimously on Tuesday by FIFA’s governing council, an enormous expansion of soccer’s showpiece tournament that was hailed by supporters as a victory for inclusion but that was derided by critics as the latest money grab by an organization still emerging from a series of financial scandals. The move, which will take effect in 2026, was the largest expansion, in percentage terms, for the World Cup since it went to 24 teams from 16 in 1982, and the first since it moved to the current 32-nation format in 1998.” NY Times
“Documentary which follows events at Israel’s most notorious football club. Beitar Jerusalem FC is the most popular team in Israel and the only club in the Premier League never to sign an Arab player. Midway through a season the club’s owner, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak, brought in two Muslim players from Chechnya in a secretive transfer deal that triggered the most racist campaign in Israeli sport and sent the club spiralling out of control. Forever Pure follows the famous football club through the tumultuous season, as power, money and politics fuel a crisis and shows how racism is destroying both the team and society from within.” BBC (Video)
“The World Cup might grow to 40 teams, or it might wind up with 48. It might be eight groups of five or four groups of 10, or there might be 16 seeds and a straight 32-team knockout round to get to join them in the format we have now. Or it might be 16 groups of three. Either way, the endless gigantism stimulated by FIFA presidential elections, as candidates promise more and more nations that they, too, can play in a World Cup, means that the competition will be even more bloated, even more unwieldy by then. Of course, this is 2026 we’re talking about, so there’s a significant chance global political elections by then will mean that by then, as George Orwell foresaw, it’s just three teams: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia.” SI – Jonathan Wilson
“Oxford House in Bethnal Green, London, recently played host to L’Internationale, an exhibition of photos taken in London during Euro 2016. Liam Aylott, by day a professional fashion and advertising photographer, tracked down fans of all twenty-four participating nations and captured the agony and ecstasy of supporting one’s nation. The exhibition and Liam’s work was supported by Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Fans for Diversity fund, which was set up to help fans celebrate the extraordinary power of football to unite people from a diverse set of backgrounds.” Football Pink
“Belgium must have some kind of special glamor power with football’s governing body, or the country collectively holds an awful lot of photos of top FIFA bods at Christmas Karaoke parties going through an enthusiastic Abba medley. The most under-achieving country in terms of talent vs results are still being rewarded for their purely theoretical footballing prowess by holding fast in the FIFA rankings in second place. Second!” BeinSports – Tim Stannard