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.
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