Extra Substitution at the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar
In 2020, several high profile ex-professional football players passed away and their deaths, from dementia-related illness, have been linked to concussion, sustained through playing football. Jack Charlton (85) and Nobby Stiles (78) were part of the victorious England squad that won the 1966 World Cup and, of the eleven team members that played in the final against Germany, five have died of dementia to date. Though, it was recently revealed that squad member Sir Bobby Charlton is also suffering from the disease. Concerns about the risk of dementia in footballers have risen significantly in recent years as high-profile deaths shine a light on sport-related illnesses stemming from head injuries, as well as the lack of understanding and knowledge around the risks to players. And, high profile deaths are just the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty of less well-known players who have suffered or are suffering from the disease, and many more footballers who will now be concerned about their future health.
In response, research and studies are underway to advance what is known about the link between dementia and footballers, and other organisations have begun forming to help raise awareness. The results will no doubt inform decisions towards making the game safer for those involved. On the ground, football associations have begun to roll out guidelines for managing head injuries at a professional level down to grassroots. Some have already banned heading the ball in children's games and training due to its association with brain damage.
As part of their efforts towards tackling the growing concerns over dementia, FIFA has recently announced their intention to trial concussion substitutions (actual or suspected) at the up and coming Club World Cup in Qatar. The move comes after the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved the use of concussion substitutes in December 2020 to protect players against multiple blows to the head. The Club World Cup will be the first international competition to trial the new rule.
The 2020 FIFA Club World Cup, postponed due to COVID-19, and to be held in February 2021, will witness a seven-team clash for the world championship title. The seven squads, winners of 2020s six football confederation continental championships and the host nation's national league championship, will be able to use one concussion substitution per match for the first time. The switch will be in addition to each team's five regular substitutions (the rule of five has been temporarily introduced to lessen the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the field).
The concussion substitute trial will, it is hoped, reduce the pressure on medical personnel to make a quick assessment, and send a strong message that, if in any doubt, the player in question should be withdrawn. The new rule will also physically prevent a player from sustaining another concussion during the match, thus avoiding the severe consequences of multiple head-injury incidents.
2020 FIFA Club World Cup
Scheduled to take place between February 1st and February 11th 2021, the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup’s opening match, between the host nation and Oceania squad Auckland City FC, will kick-off at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar’s Al Rayyan on the 1st.
The winner of the opening round will face either South Korean’s Ulsan Hyundai, Egypt’s Al Ahly SC, or Mexico’s Tigres UANL at the quarter-finals which begin on February 4th. The games will be played out at World Cup 2022 stadiums, Khalifa International Stadium and Education City Stadium.
The semi-finals and the match for 5th place will take place on February 7th and 8th. Joining the winners from the quarter-finals will be European’s FC Bayern Munich, and the winners of the South American Copa Libertadores final - to be decided on January 30th. The tournament final will take place on February 11th. The semis will be held at the Ahmad bin Ali and Khalifa International Stadiums, the 5th and 3rd place deciders and the final at Education City Stadium.
The draw to finalise the tournament pairings will take place in Zurich on January 19th.
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