The Italian football team on Monday was officially ruled out of the FIFA World Cup that is to be played in Russia next year. The big jolt to the four-time World Cup winners came after they failed to overcome the first-leg 1-0 deficit against Sweden. Gianluigi Buffon-led Italy team was held in a drab goalless game by the Swedish footballers at San Siro stadium in Milan. With Netherlands also failing to secure a berth to the biggest football extravaganza, will football World Cup 2018 be the same?
It is not just a blow to Italy and Netherlands, but also a big loss to the football as well. Both the countries boast of a massive fan base of football lovers as the presence of football in Italy and Netherlands is several decades old. The teams from Dutch league – Eredivisie – and Italian league – Serie A – consistently participates in the top club competitions of the world and have a global viewership in millions.
Since the two football playing nations have their domestic leagues, their youth facilities and other football foundations are truly state of art. Be it Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Kevin Strootman, Leonardo Bonucci, Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini are some of the world-class talents that have proven their mettle on the highest stage over the years and garnered a massive fan following of their own. The absence of all these players has undoubtedly dampened the enthusiasm among many avid supporters, which can prove to be detrimental for FIFA.
According to a statement released by FIFA, the World Cup of 2014 that was held in Brazil was seen by at least 3.2 billion people in the world. The final match of World Cup 2014 alone was watched by more than 1 billion people. Now, it should be noted that a large part of that viewership comes from the continent of Asia, which has total 48 countries but only three Asian nations – Japan, South Korea and Iran – participated in the tournament.
Clearly, the entire football fan base in Asia has not many local options to support at the big international football tournaments. The European football is their only salvation and when it comes to the elimination of top two domestic football-playing nations from the World Cup, the viewership is bound to take a dip. The combined population of Italy and Netherlands is close to 80 million and if one adds the number of fans from Asia to it then the numbers will only increase.
According to a report by Business Insider, FIFA collected a colossal amount of approximately $15 billion from the Brazil World Cup due to the record-breaking viewership it received. Now the absence of Italian and Dutch players from the World Cup Russia will clearly hit the tournament hard but how impactful will it remain to be seen.