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Who benefits from these internationals?

Who benefits from these internationals?

By Simon Bailey

With the current round of international football matches over, and the players heading back  to their respective clubs in various states of disrepair, it makes me wonder about their true value.

In this round were some Friendlies and some World Cup Qualifiers.  Now that league football is in full swing across a large part of the globe, senior members of international squads are often not played at all in the Friendlies. There are many substitutions and despite the pomp and ceremony surrounding these fixtures, they amount to little more than a training ground session with bling.

A reasoned mind would argue here that the value lies in the experience gained by the players. I would cynically add that maybe the value lies in FIFA’s bank account because its not a cheap night out. I took a couple of my kids and a couple of friends to see Ireland vs South Africa on Tuesday evening. After transport and a programme etc I didn’t see much change from 250 Euros.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time but when they charge as much as a lot of Premier League matches, but don’t have to pay the players the £21,000 a week average wages it makes you wonder where the money goes.

Would I go again? Too damn skippy I would

So herein lies the rub. Despite all the negatives,  we, and seemingly everyone else who was there, enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Likewise, I expect that most of the supporters who went to the World Cup Qualifiers around the globe enjoyed themselves immensely. But these matches are different.

Unlike the friendlies where the stakes are much lower, these matches are serious. There is much National pride at stake. Remember when Croatia knocked England out of Euro-2008? The Manager lost his job and England fans had to sit out another summer tournament with no team to follow. OK the matches still went ahead, and as a football fans above all else, many of us watched every one we possibly could, but there is no denying the detachment felt because of our non appearance.

This time round Argentina are not certain to qualify, nor France. Two teams that have always excelled in this competition. So the pressure is really on. The managers have to play their best team, it’s all or nothing, only the result matters. What doesn’t matter is that these managers don’t pay the players’ wages, organise their dietary needs, train them or provide their primary health care.

Much like the attitude of the famous British Generals in the First World War, where men were treated like cannon fodder, these managers care not for their players. The national team doctors seem to have a much lower threshold in defining injuries than club doctors.

A prime example this week: Caleb Folan (Ireland) sustained a fairly serious injury that required four stitches. Even though the medic who attended him on the pitch intimated that a substitution should take place, the Ireland manager refused and the player was off the pitch for ten minutes being treated. And this was only a friendly.

The list of injured players coming back to the Premier League after these matches gets longer after every round. The value in these matches seems to be realised by the medical profession who are winners every time.

In overall terms of value though, If your national team qualify and none of your clubs players are injured, then you have had good value. However, If the opposite is the situation then you should rightly feel swindled by the whole affair.

As an English man supporting Arsenal I fall between the categories. England has qualified so hooray for that. But seeing as we have a truly International squad which keeps coming back with chunks knocked out of them, which truly affects our season, I don’t believe that we get good value at all.

I don’t profess to having the answers either. With FIFA, UEFA and FA’s all over the world all independently trying to run their part of the game, there is very little chance that anything will be done about it. Indeed, if asked they would probably deny that the problem even exists.

It occurs to me that UEFA and FIFA hold a competition every other year in the summer. Every other year we have a fallow summer with only the transfer market to keep us interested. Why don’t they hold the qualifiers in the summer break the year before the competition?

Otherwise, the Club managers, who provide everything for their players, should be able to employ a veto for these matches. Firstly a medical veto, the club doctor has the final say. Secondly a ‘friendly’ veto where managers can refuse to let their players play in non competition matches.

Third, managers should be able to refuse to let their players represent their country at more than one level. The Walcott saga with the tug of war between Pierce and Capello was and is ridiculous.

Perhaps then all supporters of all teams, club and national will feel that these competitions are good value.

18 comments to Who benefits from these internationals?

  • LRV

    Tony, much as you have echoed my sentiments in this article, I am afraid that EUFA & FIFA get far too much from these games to allow your suggestions. Even the FAs get quite a lot from the friendlies. Besides, football fans themselves are suckers for these games which affords them the opportunity to vent their nationalistic tendencies. Club fans can never win with this one, me thinks.

  • t00farg0ne

    It can get annoying that our players tend to come back with knocks and niggles or sometimes something more serious and by the looks of it we’ll be missing Arshavin for a couple of games but sometimes we do benefit from the international break.

    In fact, this time round (assuming there are no more injuries found) we’ve done quite well. Ok, lost AA but both Cesc and Rosicky have had valuable match time making playing them on saturday less of a risk, Theo has returned to training, Almunia, Denilson and Clichy have had a rest and RvP, Bendtner and Eduardo have all had confidence boosts by getting on the score sheet.

    The fact that the luck seems to be against us a lot of the time could well be just that we easily notice when a player of ours is injured on international duty where as, on the other hand, we take it for granted when a player gains confidence or gets valuable match time.

    Take Carlos Vela for example. Ok, injured now due to international duty but he rarely played last season and the confidence boost he must have gained from having such a successful CONCACAF cup in my opinion greatly outweighs the fact that we’ll miss him for a couple of weeks.

  • LRV

    t00farg0ne: That’s another way of looking at it and I find it a bit difficult to disagree. So, valid point.

  • Marc

    Whilst out and about yesterday I was flicking through different radio station’s and came across either 5Live or Talkshite interviewing a journo from the Guardian about Wembley and the money the FA has to raise to pay for the new stadium. Apparently 65% of any ticket cost at Wembley goes on debt repayment. They were even joking that in 30 years time when Wembley needs replacing they still won’t have paid for the current stadium!

    This goes a long way in explaining 2 things. 1) Why we have so many “Friendlies” 2) Why the FA allows clubs to be financially run in such a sustainable way. After all how can the FA tell clubs to balance the books!

  • Marc

    Correction: unstainable way!

  • By the way if you want to read this article again it has been posted three times by Kamermon on Team Talk. Shows how good it is!

  • gary

    Will there come a time when arsenal can field a full fit team?.Huddink knew what he was doing ,keeping him on the full 90 mins!-he’s still in Chelsea,s pocket, no doubt about that.Wenger is also at fault for not reporting to Huddink that the lad wasn’t fit–but can you stop the player if he wants to go–nah–just pay his wages arsenal-and you Wenger –just accept it like you do with most problems!.i’m sick as a parrot with these ongoing injuries-Rosicky out -Djurou out- Wallcott back-Cesc back-Arshavin out-Nasri out-Diaby back?(maybe) Rosicky played 65 mins for Czechs last night–whats the betting he’ll “have a niggle”training friday and can’t face Man C?!!.Made with papier mache,the lot of ’em.I’m bloody fed up.Rant over!!.

  • tim

    all solid, intelligent comments. i’m obviously very new to this board, and i have to say it’s refreshing how much different this blog is from 99% of the crap out there.

    tony’s post fully grasps the contradiction between club and nation. like LRV and marc, i am skeptical that any substantial change would ever occur. UEFA, FA, etc. simply have too much money at stake.

    but i wonder if a more important factor might be that even those who want change won’t be willing to carry it through to the end. we may recognize these nationalistic tendencies for what they are (i despise harry redknapp for everything he stands for), but we all take pride in seeing our respective nations do well…and there’s an added emotional boost when one knows that the players performing in these games aren’t doing it–at least at that moment–“for the money.” i mean, look at beckham! he is a walking dollar sign, but his devotion to England is unchallenged, and is lauded for having the same love of the game as an 8-year-old might have.

  • tim

    sorry, simon’s post, i mean!

  • Muru

    Yes, very true. Why are Arsenal’s players fall prey to international matches? This is one thing that I can’t seem to fathom about. Anyhow…It is a problem that both FIFA and UEFA-Platini-land would need to ponder about and since it’s Arsenal, he will gladly and probably skim the whole issue with that smile on his lordly face.

    All in all, it’s good that England qualified for the World Cup…as this would further irritated the UEFA-Platini-land. Wonder what nonsense would come from his lordly.

    (A bit off topic here)

    Btw, I’ll try my best to observe mouth discipline during the Man Arab vs Arsenal match…me wife complains that Colourful language is quite bad for personal health…

    Wonderful post and many thanks to Mr.Tony…Keep it going…

  • stuartlondon

    My first response to the news that AA is injured was anger and disappointment. But on reflection, I suppose any player who takes pride in his football will want to play for his country when asked. If the manager were to veto attendance at internationals, player morale and peformance might well suffer in th long run.

    I took great pleasure in England’s performance against Croatia last night, but the only time I cheered out loud was when Eduardo scored. It was an automatic reaction. Is this wrong?

  • Uba

    I’m new to this site, I rarely comment on blogs cause i feel its unnecessary. Just want to say I love this blog, and the intelligence exuding from both the posts and comments is refreshing compared to the utter crap out there. Onto the post, International friendlies are pointless since they are scattered indifferently across the football calendar. If we had a month break during Christmas for all those useless friendlies and qualifiers, It would curb the constant distraction of playing for your club for 3 weeks, then a week of pointless friendlies.

  • Arsenal fans seem not to caring of their nation’s performances. The only argument against friendlies and international qualifiers I would have is that when the player gets injured, it’s the club that ultimately pays (wages also).

    However, friendlies, qualifiers and the ilk are necessary for coaches to get used to their team and tactics.
    Also for smaller nations such matches generate much income and interest than their domestic leagues.

    “For the nations who don’t have a strong domestic league, national teams are almost 80 per cent of everything,” Bilic said. “Not only income, but the interest. It was a blow for [England] not to qualify for Austria and Switzerland, but six weeks after that, you had Manchester United against Chelsea or the Champions League or something, the Premier League, but not here… so that’s why it’s important for us.”

  • walter

    Fifa and Uefa should make a very simple rule: if a player gets an injury when training or playing for his country that country should pay the players wages untill he can play again for his club.
    From that moment on the Fa of any country wil tell their managers not to risk players anymore.
    But then again… do they care about this ?
    I personally hate those international games in the middle of the season. I really can not remember that they ever brought anything good to the Arsenal

  • walter

    Look at djourou out on training for switzerland and out for 6 to 8 months. If the Swiss Fa would have to pay his wages to him instead of Arsenal it would be a big financial handicap and we only would suffer the loss of a player. Now we lose an player and have to pay his wages.

  • LRV

    Walter: That’s what I suggested a few blogs ago. The various country’s FA should, in fairness, pay the wages of the players injured while in their care till such a time that the player returns to his club. No club should be made to suffer the double whammy of loosing player & loosing money in wages as well.

    Perhaphs Tony can do a full post on this. What do you think, Tony?

  • Muru

    Yeap…completely agree with LRV…Mr.Tony, you may want to consider the proposal.

    I am geniuely wondering…if by any chance, FIFA, UEFA-Platini-land and FAs manage to agree on the policy of paying the clubs for such injury issues…they may be looking at a hugh sum as payout! Anyone heard of Countries going into “International Administrations”???

    But on a serious note, me wife was mentioning this… why do Arsenal Players tend to get injury even in training! As if it is not enough that other club’s players are out to “re-shape” our players, UEFA-Platini-land hell bent on “tekaning” (that’s torturing in Malay-singish in S’pore) Arsenal and what have you. Maybe our training is a bit tough on the players? The English weather playing a part in this? Dieting? Maybe play with less internationals in the team?

    A more sensible approach is for all power-managers at club level to peacefully congregate to reason with FIFA, UEFA-Platini-land and FAs mafias. A common calender period for international matches seems good, player’s injuries and his wages to be negotiated with a reasonable outcome for both club and countries, play less or no friendlies with club managers assisting national team managers with sufficient data on players’ playing profile for future Qualifying matches…etc

    (Off-topic again)

    If only Singapore can play such high level matches…We can’t even beat Malaysia for goodness sake…

  • walter

    Well Muru, Signapore could try to play Belgium in the next few months. They even manage to loose to Azerbeidjan (with all respect) who haven’t won a international match for some 3 years I heard.
    No team just 11 individuals on the pitch some of them with ego’s that makes Adebayors ego looks small. But I don’t really care about that.