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The solution for international football and a way to end injuries

By Walter Broeckx

I must admit the first hours when I found out about the Walcott injury I was down. Very down. Why oh why did it happen again to one of our players.

We all remember last season. Robin Van Persie who was on fire. From the start of the season he gave assists and then he started scoring himself for fun. Nothing seemed to stop him in the EPL.

And it wasn’t something or someone in the EPL that stopped him. No it was a friendly international game with Holland that stopped him. We lost him for almost the rest of the season. Things could have been different with him in the team as the understanding between Cesc and Robin was excellent. They could find each other on the pitch with both their eyes blindfolded. Giving assists to each other and scoring as if it was nothing.

And now Theo Walcott was on fire. Some pundit tried to tell us that Theo has no football brain, but maybe this was just down to the fact that this pundit has no brain at all. Theo was scoring for fun, he was creating space for others, his understanding with the other strikers was great tot see and they changed places and confused the opponents. The only difference one can say is that this time it wasn’t a friendly but it was for the qualifying games for the 2012 European Championship. Now suddenly we feel better about this, don’t we.

How long we will miss him is not sure at the moment I write this. Rumours say that he will only be out for 2 weeks. Well if that would be the case I would take it in a minute. But when we remember Robin Van Persie last year he also was said to be out for just a few weeks until the truth came out and he was out for the rest of the season. So, I am holding my breath a bit until we see Theo back in full speed dressed in an Arsenal shirt.

I have said it before I don’t care about international football at all. But I can understand the need that people may have to identify themselves with their national team. So I don’t want to say to just ban the international football from this world. But what I can do and will do is to question the system that is being used for the moment.

Some time ago Fifa and Uefa recognised the need to take on some more or less fixed dates for international football. And so they decided that the international games should take place at the start of September, halfway October, the end of march and if needed some games could be played at the end of May or at the begin of June. And we can add to that the fact that just before the start of the EPL there is a somewhat fixed date for friendly internationals.

And mostly in those weeks with international football each team is playing some 2 games. Depending on the size of the group a team is in. But some of our national federations also have the habit of introducing a friendly game when they only play one game in that period.

This means that in total we have around 6 qualifying games to be played in a season. And 2 friendly games. A total of 8 games per season in which our players are taken away and almost every time we see one or two coming back on crutches.

These 3 weekends where there is no league football mean that the league ends on May 22 this season. But if we could play those 3 weekends with no interruption for international games we could end the league at the first weekend of May.  And this would leave a gap open for about one month where the national teams could play their 5 or 6 qualifying games and still the season would have the same length as it has now.

Because now the last game England play is on 4 June 2011. And if they would play at a ratio of Wednesday-Weekend those 5 or 6 games they could finish at the same date without any problem.

So this would mean that the fans of international football could enjoy themselves and could have all their football for a month and this would be like having a world cup each year. The media could focus on this and maybe the football federations could even make more money on it. Holland could turn orange in that month. England can get crazy about their national team.

It would be better for the team spirit of the national team because the players would become more a group. I know this can also turn against you when you have troubles but that is up to the players involved to sort those things out.

And the best thing for the clubs is that they don’t lose their players during the season because of injuries they got when playing for their country. If a player gets an injury it will mean that it will be the national team that is suffering the most from this and not the club team.

The club teams don’t see their season cut in pieces with every now and then almost a whole team of players leaving and coming back with jet lag in their body or with malaria or God knows what other diseases or injuries. They can train and play games in an even rhythm because sitting in a plane for hours is not the ideal preparation for a football player to stay fit.

And it will also mean that if a player gets a very bad injury and would be out for the whole season it will mean the teams can adjust this in the transfer period that will follow the international games. So even an injury can be fixed by the clubs.

I think both the national federations and the club teams could win if they only would decide to change the dates of international football, get them out of the regular season and put the games together at the end of the season.

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23 comments to The solution for international football and a way to end injuries

  • I dislike international football with a vengeance, and I was dismayed about Theo, because of his form, but I do believe we are better situated this year than last.

    In effect Theo can be seen as an attacking midfielder, or as a forward, and either way we have cover. Yes I would sooner have him in the team than out, but it is not quite utterly desperate yet…

    Our midfield includes Fabregas, Nasri (who may or may not be ready for saturday), Eboue, Wilshere, and Lansbury. Plus JET as a sub.

    Our fit forwards are Tomas Rosicky, Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and Carlos Vela. And didn’t Diaby play as a forward in Turkey a year or two back. Scored as well as I recall.

    Of course I include as possible some younger players, and that will cause some to throw up hands in the horror that we don’t have 20 million pound full internationals ready to take up positions.

    But can I throw in the memory of Craig Eastmond, who suddenly moved from youth team right back to playing in Song’s position in the first team, against…. Bolton. Nor of Vela in the pre-season build up.

    There are a number of kids out there waiting to have a go. Aneke, Afobe, Sunu… on the subs bench. I don’t know who is up to it, and I certainly didn’t spot Eastmond as being ready, which is why I’m writing adverts and not managing Arsenal.

    But I do believe we are starting to see a remarkable strength in depth, and for me this would be an ideal time to see with at least one player, just what we have got.

  • Jonny

    Quite right Tony – it’s been one or two players a season stepping up and we should be enthusiastic for this trend to continue.

    I’ve always been keen for JET to make it with The Arsenal and not be another Bentley or Simpson. He definitely going to be Premiership quality and by all reports he’s a hard worker.

    I’ll be pleased as can be if he plays and has a good game on the weekend.

  • Dark Prince

    I really hope JET gets a chance to play in the coming weeks. He seems to be ready for the EPL. But its a real shame to see our best performer of the EPL till now to get injured. The injury pic looked as horrific as eduardo’s but hopefully it isn’t. 2 weeks is fine for such an injury. But more shame is the 6 week lay off for Van Persie. We will miss him for the Chelsea game. We.ll need Walcott ready by then. Lets just pray for his speedy recovery. 🙂

  • Mr Angry

    Can’t believe someone else has come up with this solution! Iv’e been championing this for 3 years but it needs bigger coverage to reach the people and seek the right publicity. It would favour,us the fans, the clubs themselves and the media. Sadly it would not suit either the F.A, FIFA, Platini or Blatter. as they would not be able to swan about full of self importance for 12 monthe of the year.
    Good article Tony as always…keep up the good work

  • Paul C.

    Hey Walter – I brought up this idea last year on this blog!!!! I remember you commented that you thought it was an interesting idea. Hmmm, stealing huh?

    No problem. Good to see the idea out there. I have argued this idea for about 15 years now and most everyone I have told it to has said something along the lines of “that is too easy an idea for UEFA/FIFA to take it on!!”

    That sums it up nicely I thin.

  • walter

    Ooops Paul C, I didn’t know this or better said I didn’t remembered it. In Dutch I would say that I feel a bit like the guy who shouted: Hey, I invented hot water.

    Anyway, great minds think alike but I will gladly give you the credit for this idea.

    And then we should give credit for Mr. Angry who seemingly has been saying it for 3 years now. I wonder in a few hours if someone will say that AW said this 10 years ago ….

  • Terence McGovern

    Nice article Walter.

    To be honest I detest International football so much, it is very difficult for me to discuss without going off on a rant.
    My opinion is well known but I will state it again:

    As long as National Federations escape being financially liable for medical bills and wage costs of players injured whilst on ‘duty’ for them, pointless international friendlies will continue as a cash cow for the federations and a scourge for the clubs.

    When will the clubs realise that the international game cannot exist without them and start acting accordingly?

  • Paul C.

    Walter – agreed. There have been people discussing the idea for years. I think it makes complete sense and I think you explained the concepts in your piece perfectly. It is a win-win for everyone. The international managers get the same benefits of having people together for an extended period of time, under your control.

    And Terence, I think your issue of compensation gets solved under this idea as well. Club managers detest having their seasons disrupted continually by internationals, which is why they have been so adamant about compensation. You never hear managers complaining about their players getting injured at the World Cup. They accept that. If Club managers knew that from September – June they had their players and never had to gie them up for anything outside of “training sessions” every month or two, then I think peace would break out and comprimises reached.

    All of the objection to the international game that I have – disruption to season, meaningless friendlies, injuries while not on club duty during the season, excesive travel during the season not for Arsenal (Vela to Mexico every bloody month it seems!!!!!), etc etc would be solved by this scheme.

    It would also make great financial sense for FIFA/UEFA.

    To me it seems, and always has seemed, a no-brainer.

    Thanks Walter, for bringing this topic up.

  • Adi

    Great article Walter and a logical solution as well. Do hope that Theo has a speedy recovery. Looks like we are not the only ones with concerns from this international break as well. Kuyt for Liverpool and Defoe and Dawson for spurs, are also bound to impact their season. Another reason I personally dislike international breaks in between the season is, being a fan from Asia, there is very limited coverage of the international games, so more or less, it becomes a weekend without any foot ball !! Another point is how conveniently certain “regulars” we unavailable for the internationals from Chelsea and Man Utd (for the earlier friendly).

  • Terence McGovern

    If walcott is out for say 6 weeks as rumoured although not confirmed and is on £60k a week again rumoured not confirmed, then the cost is £360k plus medical expenses.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/7765422.stm

    Now compare the money that the FA get from deals with SKY, ITV, ESPN etc for these internationals and also the money that UEFA and FIFA get for the tournaments themselves.

    I don’t care when the matches are held. The FA and their ilk are engaged in massive profiteering at the cost of the clubs themselves.
    We just lost our top scorer and for what? Playing for a team that most club fans do not support(global brand)
    I am no spurs fan but wow! Dawson AND Defoe when they are going to need them the most.
    What will the national Federation give as compensation?
    What they always do…sweet FA.

    The clubs have a duty of care to both their players and fans in this regard and should refuse to lend out their players without the respective liabilities being underwritten by the receiving party.

    As a business model operating in any other market it would not be allowed to exist.

    Pay their wages while they are on duty. Pay their medical bills incurred whilst you have them. Pay their wages whilst they are out of action due to injuries received whilst on international duty.

    Now that is an acceptable business relationship. Otherwise the players should not be made available and certainly not ever as per Walter’s article during a domestic season.

  • Podge

    Sounds so much better than the current system and the near 2 months footballers get off is too much and some come back way out of shape(Benni McCarthy) they wont need so much time off if they arent flying all over the world during the regular season when we lose Vela to Mexico, Denilson to Brazil, Eboue to Cote D’Ivore and Chamakh to Morroco thats 4 players leaving the continent to play football. Long haul flights like that are bad enough without training and playing football in between.

  • dats

    Having seen R.V-P and Walcott’s injuries it cretainly seems to me that the problem today is that the players boots are like carpet slippers and offer no protection whatsoever. In the olden days when I was young (as my grandchildren say) we used to wear sturdy leather boots which came about three inches obove the ankles and had laces about 10 yards long! Even after smothering them in dubbin they were still rock solid. This didn’t seem to affect the players though. Arthur Milton was as quick as anyone I’ve seen, Jimmy Logie’s skills were mesmerising and as for the power of Cliff Holton’s shooting, phew!
    Now, I am not suggesting that we revert back to that antiquated footwear but surely with the technology these days a boot can be designed that is lightweight and offers protection which would greatly reduce the likes of damaged ankle ligaments and broken metatarsels. With that Arsenal could insist that they are worn on international duty and in training sessions. If necessary the present day carpet slippers could be retained for important Arsenal matches.
    Am I right or am I being stupid?
    Don’t answer that!

  • Paul C.

    dats – I say bring back the old shoes AND the old leather balls that got heavier with moisture!!!! That would sort out the men from the boys!!!

  • Clerkwell Gooner

    Time for Vela to get his game boots on, because if not now, when? You’ll never have a better chance, mate, with Theo, RVP + BigNick all out. Carpe diem!

    Vela nearly scored after that sombrero-laden run vs Blackpool.

    Here’s hoping he dances a mazy dance round Bolton, and chips a couple in.

  • ferris

    As bad as the next 4-6 weeks will be (2-3 weeks? He’s an Arsenal player – hah!) Maybe this will convince him to stay away from Capello’s side awhile.

    I didn’t see today – thank heaven for small mercies – but watching friday its clear that while Arsene Wenger wants to encourage Theo be the player he can be Capello wants him to remain a decoy out wide who just scares people with his pace and does very little more, and that can only hurt his progress which has been impressive since summer.

    Capello wants the Theo of last saseaon -and the season beofre and the season before that – I fear not the Theo we had seen so far this season.

    Get well really soon, lad – you have no choice – I mean We have no choice

  • ferris

    on a side note…

    Again, not a post that is really in any way relevant to the subject in hand

  • The Blaze

    I’d like that, especially with the Africa Cup, but one thing: what about the years in which we have the World Cup or the EURO’s? Would we have the 6 games in May/June and then immediately go to the World Cup after that? Couldn’t that potentially cause some disruption with the organization in terms of making reservations, determing which nations gets how many tickets, reserving accomodations for the qualified nations on such short notice?

  • walter

    The Blaze,
    You are right about that it could have some problems for the organisation of the WC/EURO itself.

    I think it will take one year with extra games to sort this out. An example:

    If at the end of this season we would play all the qualifying games for the EURO 2012 like I proposed the teams and organisation would have one year before the tournament starts know who will be in it and they have one year to prepare everything.

    You then can play the first 5 or 6 qualifying games for the next world cup right after the 2011/2012 season in May and this also can be a good preparation for the teams that play in the Euro’s.
    And in the summers season between the euro’s and the next WC you can play the final qualifyers and then again you know one year in front who will be in it.

    And then in may before the next world cup you can play the first 5 or 6 qualifying games fot the next euro’s and again have a good preparation and so on and on…

    Bit it would take one very heavy season before things are sorted.

  • ferris

    Now before I start I would like to point out that I haven’t gone completely mad…

    Well perhaps not, but your article did actually appear two days ago in the Gooner on line, and so this is plagiarism, which if not a sign of madness is a sign of desperation Tony

  • FinnGooner

    There is good point in that but it would be really bad for Finland and Russia where football is played during summer so making national team break for a month would mean either teams having to play without international – stars or having a month off. That would mean playing indoors or in snow in Finland. As in Finland there is difficulty to get people watch the league matches at first place if teams would have to play without their stars or in quite cold weather it would be harder. I know Finland is small (in football that is) but doing that might almost kill it. I’m still in bit of shock about the way Holland was in trouble with Finland (good that Oranje has great goalkeeper otherwise they would have lost the match).

  • Arsene Apprentice

    Ferris,

    You big Dope!

    Great catch Tony!

  • walter

    Finngooner, I think you have swept my proposition from the table. 😉 Yes I think it would put countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia in trouble….

  • FinnGooner

    I’m so sorry about that Walter.
    I forgot to say that I hate those breaks too. I only like them because that has given chance to see Arsenal players at my home country (but I am planning to go to London to see them wearing right shirts).
    Off the topic I’m looking forward for the article about the referee of Bolton match (There were few times while I was watching it I was thinking “What will Walter say about that?”.