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How do you solve a problem like Oceania?

Auckland City 12, AS Mont Dore 2
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, April 13 2013

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It’s been too long since I last went to a game at Kiwitea Street, a place I have made no secret of the fact that it rates amongst my favourite football grounds in the world. This time it was for a real thrashing by Auckland City over AS Mont Dore of New Caledonia in the Oceania Football Confederation Champions League. The main reason I have held off for so long is that none of the games Auckland City have played recently have had me in any way enthused. Both the ASB Premiership and the O League have turned into nothing but two horse races between two Auckland teams separated by less than 20 kilometres despite being situated in a confederation that spans over eight million square kilometres.

Sometimes you wonder about the Oceania Confederation and sometimes you don’t. When an upset occurs as they often do it tends to paper over the cracks for a while but today was one of those days when you find yourself asking what the point is. New Zealand seems to use the Confederation largely as its own little gravy train. Fielding the strongest teams it can jack up so it can win the O League, head to the Club World Cup and bring home the prize money available to those who simply turn up. The money funds the development of the game here and this is obviously great for New Zealand Football but is it great for the island nations? It’s sometimes difficult to see how.

Somehow it feels wrong that New Zealand, being a first world, relatively wealthy, western developed nation is sucking all the money into its coffers while other countries continue to struggle with the crumbs that are left behind. The defence of course is that if New Zealand pulled out of Oceania, there would be no confederation and the island nations would get even less money. But there is still an inherent unfairness in a country like ours, where football is very much a minority sport, gorging itself on the proceeds of our sheer weight of greater population and resources. How galling it must be for some of the clubs our teams play against in this competition, getting thrashed in front of a couple of hundred spectators, when the return leg in many cases draws thousands to watch.

Since Australia left Oceania to join Asia, both confederations feel like anomalies. Asia is too big while Oceania is so small it has become little aside from a rort. The problem is that if all of Oceania joined Australia the Asian confederation would then go from too big to waaaay too big.

For me the solution is to split Asia into two. Have a North West Asian Confederation that takes in the Middle East, India and maybe even China. Then have a South East Asian Confederation that includes Japan, the Koreas, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia etc. and Oceania. This would not only be fairer for the rest of the world that has to work a lot harder for its World Cup places than we do, but it would also be better for our elite development as our teams gain more exposure and experience against stiffer competition. As an added bonus it would give the Phoenix a pathway to the Club World Cup and I fail to see how it would disadvantage the Pacific Island Nations any more than their current position does.

The rub is whether or not it is politically doable, which is doubtful at best. This is an issue that FIFA knows is a problem and continues to sweep under the carpet because Asia is a powerful bloc and is unlikely to want to be split up. This reality will no doubt mean that we will continue on the way we are now for many years to come. It’s a pity because a South East Asian Champions League game in a big New Zealand Stadium – Now THAT would get me enthused. Sigh. Maybe one day…

Categories: OFC Champions League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

4 replies

  1. Hi is it at all possible to email me the pictures you have of Darren White for Auckland City FC? I am his mum in England.

    1. Hi Jackie, no problem will do. I hope he recovers quickly from the ankle injury he picked up yesterday. He seemed to take a lot of knocks in the game but he was playing great! 🙂

  2. Hi Enzo,

    Nice website/blog.

    Mont Dore’s atrocious performance was a sad way to spend an afternoon at football, but if any defence can be mounted it is that their domestic season is still yet to get underway. Previously, FCF’s domestic calendar was in lockstep with the rest of the region and that seems to now not be the case, a severe disadvantage, self-inflicted, as it were.

    More broadly speaking, the advantages the OFC Champions League provides non-Kiwi nations is the exposure to regular, international competition on an annual basis, both home and away. Prior, there was only a club tournament played in a 12 day period with no guarantee of full international matches for member associations.

    This is a massive plus for fans, the local economy and players, who get to see their best players perform regularly on the international stage. Ten years ago, there was nothing. Results like yesterday pop up, but not as regularly as they used to (see 1999 OFC Club Champs and 2000 OFC Club Champs).

    As for the prize money, I think you’ll find the winning club end up breaking even on Club World Cup qualification after the prize money is split between them, their players, their member associations clubs, NZF and the OFC. The cost of running the OFC Champions League each season is around $600-700k, roughly.

    The AFC and OFC will never break up, you’ve got that right, its a political non-starter.

    By the way, two unfollowers today, I thought you would like to know.

    Regards,

    Gordon Glen Watson
    Auckland City FC Media Manager

  3. Hi Gordon,

    Thanks for your interesting comment.

    I wasn’t suggesting that the club that wins the prize money keeps it all to itself. Obviously it is spread around to various interested parties and as I mentioned above this is good for New Zealand football. It’s not all bad, it might well be better than what came before it, but it can also be much better than it is now IMHO.

    You win some, you lose some. Always sad to hear about unfollowers but if I tried to please everyone all the time I’d post nothing but wishy-washy blandness. I say what I think and people can either take it, leave it or try to set me straight. Thank you for taking the latter option.

    Looking forward to getting down to Kiwitea again soon.

    Enzo.

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