The Last Word: It's time to get rid of the FIFA rankings

The convoluted system has somehow pushed Israel up to 15th, despite recent unimpressive performances.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
Imagine if Israel was to play Mexico in a significant international match, say at the World Cup finals. Or if Dror Kashtan's men were to face Nigeria, Colombia or even the United States. While you might think the Israelis would have a slight chance of winning these games, most betting men would put their money on the opponents. All four of these teams have made significant impacts on the international stage in recent years, appearing and doing well at World Cup finals and Olympic Games. Israel, on the other hand, has failed to qualify for a major international soccer tournament since beating Australia and New Zealand to make it to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. So the news this week that Israel has risen another place to number 15 in the latest FIFA rankings, above Mexico (25), Nigeria (22), the US (24) and Colombia (40), only serves to underline the futility of the ranking system. The rankings were introduced in 1992 as a method of comparing national teams and have been revised a number of times over the years in an effort to make them more reflective of the importance of the games played. After the 2006 World Cup FIFA changed the criteria so that it only took games played in the last four years into account, but it has continued to receive criticism for its rankings. As this month proves, it is practically impossible to create a system which reflects every facet of the game and it is now time for world soccer's governing body to scrap the rankings altogether. Apart from allowing fans to peruse the list for interest's sake, there is no need to have such a system. It has only served to create uncertainty and mislead the public into thinking one team is superior to another. Since last month, Israel has managed to draw 1-1 with Latvia and beaten the mighty Luxembourg (population 480,222) 3-1. But somehow the convoluted FIFA system has used those matches to push Israel up to 15th. Unfortunately, not everyone has realized how unimportant this list is. For example, the British Home Office will only grant a foreign player a working visa to allow him to play in the Premier League if his national team is ranked in the top 70 by FIFA. In the summer of 2007, Nashat Akram was heading to play for Manchester City, only to see his visa request turned down because Iraq was ranked 71, even though it had just won the Asia Cup with Akram a major player in the win over Australia. The rankings are dangerous and confusing and should be consigned to the trash can as soon as possible before other such travesties occur.