Monday, October 24, 2005

Is Uzbekistan looking to move to UEFA?

Various sites are reporting that Uzbekistan is so angered over the events that lead to them failing to make the playoff match with Trinidad & Tobago that they want to move from the Asian Confederation to UEFA (Europe).

Uzbekistan has every right to be discussed with FIFA's ruling that they had to replay their match against Bahrain due to an error that actually cost the Uzbeks a goal. Alisher Nikimbayev, a senior official in the Uzbekistan Football Federation, seems to think FIFA might have had some less then on the board reasons for ordering the replay. "Unfortunately, we don't have enough proof to say that FIFA would rather see a rich Arab state like Bahrain play in the World Cup than having us there."

I'm not sure if there was a direct connection between these two, but one must wonder, how could FIFA really justify such a decision. It still makes no sense to me.

But there are reasons for the move beyond trying to avoid wealthy countries from the Middle East. Their home league would get to compete in the all European competitions. As Nikimbayev says, "playing in the [European] Champions League would be a great boost for our game and would benefit us financially. All our fans would love it. Just imagine having Real Madrid, Chelsea or Man United come here."

That would be fun to watch.

However, Goal.com is reporting that Nikimbayev is now denying all rumors of a move to UEFA. “Maybe the correspondent wanted to join UEFA. There is absolutely no truth in the report. Uzbekistan’s main aim is to qualify for the World Cup and our best chance to do that is in Asia.”

I have to agree with this statement. If the Uzbeks want to get to the finals, they will have a much harder time by going through Europe (just ask their 0-1-11 UEFA neighbors to the north Kazakhstan). Yes, they will get to see some bigger league and international sides come to town from time to time, but is that worth the high risk of failing to qualify for the World Cup for many years to come? I'm going to guess that World Cup dreams will trump any other possibilities, causing them to stay in Asia.

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