Thursday 27 March ~
Whatever the fate of the Game 39 plans or whatever Superleague scheming is currently happening in boardrooms around Europe, the leading clubs of the richest leagues are being marketed successfully across the globe. Arsenal and Man Utd are now the most high-profile representatives of the country in which they are based, which just so happens to be England. Yet they sign the best talent from around the world. So increasingly London is becoming the global centre of football and a 'home' venue for several national squads.
Since it was opened in July 2006 the Emirates stadium has hosted the Brazilian national team three times. On the second of these occasions, when they lost 2-0 to Portugal in February 2007, there were a total of four international friendlies being played across the capital. While the glamorous game in Holloway played to an international audience of millions, west London's clubs hosted smaller but no less intriguing matches. Nigeria and Ghana played at Brentford, Craven Cottage saw Greece v South Korea, while Australia took on Denmark at Loftus Road.
One of the reasons for playing in London is clear from this list. African, South American or Australian players, many of whom are signed to European clubs, are not able or willing to fly home mid-week. At the time it was reported that the G-14 had an agreement with national federations not to play friendly matches that involve more than six hours' travelling from Frankfurt airport. Yet logistics are not the only factor in London's favour. National federations can guarantee large attendances of either ex-pats or interested neutrals and, more profitably, a global TV revenue. Even if the official reason for last night's London setting for Brazil v Sweden was the Scandinavian weather.
The clubs are not complaining, either. Arsenal have been able to show off their new and expensive stadium full of the word's best players while Brentford and the pre-takeover QPR must have blessed their proximity to Heathrow for an unexpected payday. Yet this has now reached the stage where Brazil have not played a home friendly since a celebration match in 2002 to mark their fifth World Cup win. Though with 18 games to play to achieve World Cup qualification they are still forced to play in South America sometimes.
And so to last night. Brazil's latest emerging star, Pato, scored to beat Sweden drawing comparisons to Pelé in the process while Mexico beat Ghana with a late penalty. As the world becomes smaller and Europe's big clubs become richer expect a lot more international football at a ground near you soon. But no games involving England, of course – they're for London eyes only. Ed Upright