Monday, November 29, 2021
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Does any football fan care about the International Champions Cup (ICC)

ICC Logo (via Wikipedia)

This summer’s International Champions Cup (ICC) has recently been trumpeted by the great and the good of world football, which is fine and well, but we are entitled to ask: what exactly is the point of the ICC? Come to think of it, what is it anyway?


The ICC is the brainchild of an American called Charlie Stillitano, and it’s only been around since 2013. While it boasts some of the top clubs on the planet, the cash-laden tournament’s raison d’etre is highly questionable, its status in the game even less certain. In fact, for many it’s a waste of time, providing little more than an excuse to further showcase some of the game’s top talent during the summer period.


We are told that the tournament affords clubs the opportunity to showcase their profiles across the globe, but you can’t help but detect a whiff of desperation about all this. Large cash incentives, of course, cannot be ignored by even the better off among the football fraternity, but even if the money on offer isn’t really going to make that much difference to the already swollen coffers of the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and co, those clubs are just too afraid to not compete. Every opportunity to dine at the top table is grasped hungrily, irrespective of the tournament in question’s standing within the beautiful game, and you just need to be seen to be there, invited to the best parties, rubbing shoulders with the beautiful people.


Compete? That might not exactly be the right word, given the nature of the games. They are little more than training run-outs, exhibitions, for stars weary from an already overly long season, and desperate to be removed at half-time in order to quickly resume their rightful place by the beach working on their tans.


But Mr Stillitano wouldn’t entertain such talk, given his obvious ambition to lord it over all. He was recently involved in discussions with some of England’s top clubs – whose representatives made little attempt to conceal their glee (or their wallets, perhaps) as they were pictured leaving the meeting at the Dorchester Hotel. Here they considered a revamp of the Champions League that will ensure the elite are guaranteed additional fixtures during the competition at the expense of some of the so-called lesser nations, who will find their path to riches barred by even more qualifying rounds (no fewer that ten matches for some).


Celtic, for instance, would have to negotiate such a qualifying experience, but that hasn’t put them off competing this summer. The Champions League may have the status, the credibility as a tournament of genuine quality and history, but the ICC has the lure of the prize money, and at £1million per match, the Scottish Champions can hardly resist. Never mind that the ICC will progress beyond the start of the league season, such fixtures can be swatted aside as the cash is chased.


To be fair, normally a clash between the champions of Scotland and England, for instance, would stir a degree of interest, even if fans are hardly starved of the chance to watch the top players in action over the course of an ever-lengthening football season anyway.


But will Celtic versus Leicester City really generate much excitement? No disrespect to the Foxes – if Claudio Ranieri’s men do win the Premier League title this season, it’ll be richly deserved, and warmly applauded by many fans – but such a game can never compete with the glory afforded by Champions League participation.


To date, the ICC hasn’t really caught the public’s imagination, and it’s difficult to see that changing any time soon. It’s played in the United States, Australia and China – does anyone know, far less care, who won, say, the US and Europe group last season? – and features all the top players. But, do we need another tournament to showcase messrs Ronaldo, Messi and co?


Well no, we don’t, but the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and a host of other such clubs around Europe who have similarly fallen on unsuccessful domestic times (for example Milan) do. If they are unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League, they are not going to resist the cash and publicity on offer here.


However, all the money in the world may not be enough to guarantee the longevity of the ICC, and we’re left wondering whether anyone would genuinely mourn its passing, far less even notice it.

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