The concept of a tournament where Arab national teams from the “Ocean to the Gulf” compete for bragging rights is great. That would be the only true way of settling the score as to who is the best Arab team. The contest would most likely lie between the solid North Africans and the technically gifted(but increasingly complacent) Gulf sides + Iraq – this is not to rule out Levant sides who would fill the dark horse role nicely. Sounds watchable right? Enter the Arab Nations Cup. The 2012 edition is currently being held in Saudi Arabia and Palestine is competing in a 3 team group with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. You can read more about our performance (or lack of it) in the previous post. This post is to bash the entire tournament!
I am all about branding, and calling the tournament the Arab Nations Cup creates expectations of a premier competition among Arab countries. Instead what we are seeing is a collection of Olympic squads, B-teams among first teams (in addition to countries withdrawing because their players arent available). That basically tells you that these associations don’t take the Cup seriously and just see it as a chance to get a kick-around.
With the Olympics coming up, you cant blame Morroco and Egypt for utilizing the opportunity to give their olympic sides exposure. Similarly other sides aren’t fielding their full squads and using the tournament as a pit-stop, such as Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon who have World Cup Qualifiers to deal with after the summer. Palestine is fielding a full team (i.e. best possible players for each position) but arguably has the same motives in tinkering for future exploits. This shifts the timing of the tournament – the Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA) really blew it.
With Euro 2012 peaking, UAFA couldnt have chosen a worse time to hold the tournament, assuming they were aiming to maximize viewership/attention from Arab audiences. Quite the marketing flop.
But what makes it all worse is the inconsistency of the whole thing. The last Arab Nations Cup (which really was a joy to follow) was in 2002, 10 years ago! Regular and fixed occurence is essential if you want a tournament to have any credibility. Not to mention how this tournament was only announced months ago out of the blue – in the heat of revolutions, civil wars and elections.
Branding the tournament properly (this includes timing, marketing etc), with a strict First-Team only policy and preliminary qualifiers for lower ranked teams
If you do not care about the standards of your tournament then rename it. Arab Nations Cup gives it too much credit. Maybe something like “Arab Friendly Summer Brotherhood and Friendliness Tournament.”