The Unofficial Football World Championships may be the self-proclaimed least well-known football competition in the world, but things may be set to change. As a relative latecomer to the simplistic beauty that defines this competition, I’m in little doubt that the current state of the game — the groundswell of feeling coming from the grassier roots of the sport, combined with the inherent inclusiveness of the UFWC — makes for a perfect storm.
Even a cursory look at Sky Sports, or indeed any of the major media outlets, will leave you with the impression that the game has never been healthier. And to some extent that is true, but it depends on how you define health. If money is an indicator, then yes, the beautiful game is in ruddy health, certainly at the summit of the world’s top leagues. What Sky fails to realise, however, is that not everyone who loves this wonderful game is only interested in the midfield options Manchester City will have for the upcoming season or what the Chelsea back four are tweeting. There is another footballing world out there — the one that made us fall in love with the game in the first place. This is the footballing world that makes us get up at 5 o’clock on a cold February morning to make that trip up to Crewe with the underlying certainty that the best you can hope for is to come away with a hard fought, but ultimately undeserved, point.
The EPL is not the only (or indeed the worst) case of where big money takes over and spins the game off in its own direction, or where there is a limited pool of people who can claim the sport’s biggest prizes. Admittedly, in recent years it has not been easy to predict who was going to win the Premier League title in August (or even December), but it’s mostly the usual suspects. The same goes for F1, Golf, tennis, etc. Is there genuinely likely going to be a surprise at the forthcoming US Open Tennis tournament?
So where does the UFWC come in? For a competition that sounds like it was dreamed up in a pub (for all I know, maybe it was), there is something brilliant about it. It takes the world’s most popular game and gives it back to the world. Fans in Burkina Faso, the Cape Verde Islands, and even Scotland can get involved with a more realistic chance of tasting glory. It is a baton that is passed around the globe in a way that can never happen in the “real” competition. With finals being played at anytime, anywhere, suddenly “friendlies” take on a whole new level of interest and that seemingly dead rubber has profound consequences.
The competition — which comes complete with its own documented history and loyal fan base — has flirted with the big time before, but never on a consistent basis. Now, though, with more and more people fed up with the exclusiveness of the big two/three/four/five/six (apply whichever number is relevant to your current domestic league or the international scene), coupled with the circus that is FIFA, there is a vast number of people looking for something else within the game, maybe not to replace it, but certainly to supplement it. They want something that isn’t simply reserved for those who throw the most money at it, or something that is going to be analyzed and scrutinized into sterility.
The Unofficial Football World Cup fills that void and ticks those boxes. Also, it is equipped (or rather the people are) with the tools to spread it into the hearts and minds of fans around the world like never before. Social media is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly everyone has the means to promote the movement. It can circumvent the mainstream media until they can ignore it no more. It is the chance for the people to take back the people’s game.