IT’S that silly time of the season again where the football authorities have pencilled in international matches at the expense of EPL and other major league matches which have been effectively ruled out for this weekend.
I honestly wish that they would sharpen their pencils, get their act together and not be so foolish as to rub out matches of top flight action at such a critical juncture of the season.
After all we are, lest we forget, in the middle of the longest season on record caused mainly by the impact of the World Cup in Qatar being played out in the months of November and December last year.
Was it not possible after close on two months of admittedly riveting World Cup action culminating in the greatest finals ever, to have set these matches in motion after the domestic season had been concluded?
This interference after the seasons are in full swing again after the World Cup is not just disruptive, but cheeky and stupid too.
Were the Football Associations unable to stand together and block these friendlies and qualifiers, knowing the negative consequences they might cause?
The clubs who pay high end premiums for the services of these players are naturally reluctant to part with their key assets for international duty.
We’ve just seen Erling Haaland (citing an injured groin)pull out of the Norwegian national team squad for important Euro qualifiers!
- The Soccer Whiz:The return of the European heavyweights
- The Soccer Whiz: Is the EPL now a farmers league?
- Kasuza’s half ton in vain
- ZBC must stop marginalising Ndebele
With a crunch knock out Champions League tie with Bayern looming shortly and with Manchester City still playing catch up to Arsenal in the EPL, Norway would be forgiven for believing that there is something quite sinister going on!
While Erling failed to report for national duty, all his other teammates selected for national duty, jetted out far and wide.
However, even if modern footballers are pampered and cosseted in this day and age and travel in first class luxury, they will invariably still return to their clubs worn out and worse for wear after a gruelling excursion that will include many travel miles, national team matches and training, as well as the other pressures associated with travelling home and being feted as a national hero. (Mmm, think Neymar partying in Rio!)
On the other hand, while club managers will agonize and not have a winks sleep until their stars return back to duty in one peace, maybe one needs to consider the plight of an international manager who has to put up with the shenanigans of the players and their clubs.
The national team bosses are only too aware that the club sides are fearful of injury to their stars and, therefore, genuinely believe that often the players may feign injury prior to the international break or will have been instructed not to give 100% during the matches in order to return uninjured, fit and in one peace.
Considering that these international windows are the only times that the international bosses get to evaluate, strategise and prepare for crucial qualifiers, it’s hardly ideal preparation.
This duel between club and country is only going to get worse as cash flush Fifa continues to embark on it’s campaign to take as much control of the world game on the back of the most successful World Cup in history.
Plans are already afoot to introduce an expanded Club World Cup and we are on course in 2026 to have the first 48 team World Cup!
Fifa are certainly on a collision course with Uefa and the clubs too while such drastic changes are going to have a profound impact on the players fitness and welfare.
In order for there to be a happy medium, I propose the introduction of a twice yearly one month long international season (akin to an IPL cricket season)occurring both in the middle of the season as well as at the end of the club season.
This I believe may going forward represent the only chance of a working solution.
In this way there are no other international breaks at all during the domestic calendar and all players selected report for international duty in the stipulated times.
A calendar of this nature would allow the national team coach sufficient time to assess players, work on new strategies and formations.
It would also give the different continental federations a settled and confirmed time period to draw up friendlies, qualifiers and play their competitions.
Meanwhile during this international break, the big world money powers have descended on Manchester planning and preparing bids for a takeover of arguably the biggest brand in the game.
The Qataris and Sir Radcliffe are both genuine potential buyers of Manchester United and there’s a real buzz at the prospects for the club going forward.
Sadly, foreign ownership has been viewed in some quarters as unfortunate and unnecessary and already oversubscribed (referring in particular to Manchester City and Newcastle,) with a feeling amongst these same elements that the English game is for English people.
Well I hate to disappoint them, but the English game is far from English!
I need to remind them that the beautiful English game has in fact become even more beautiful with the presence in each and every club of a majority of non-English players and coaches.
I definitely must drum it in too that the English game might be watched in the recognized stadia that we have come to adore by a core of loyal partisan devoted Englishmen, but it’s also more importantly being watched by a multitude of all sorts of different nationalities on televisions, computers and mobile devices throughout the entire vast world.
The EPL is to sum it up no longer the asset or prized perfect possession of England but instead it’s now an asset that has become proudly global with its ownership vested in billions in all corners of the globe.
On any given match day, spectators around the world adorn the colours of their favourite team and huddle together sometimes at insanely odd hours to cheer on their side.
Supporters clubs of EPL teams are in every small village and town across the width and breadth of our planet.
The mammoth television deals which allow these clubs to throw money around willy nilly is only because the EPL has such a massive fan base across the world.
They have done a quite spectacular marketing job and their total brand product of players, teams, production and moolah place them way in front of their rivals in Spain, Italy and Germany.
England, however, is now purely and simply just the official base and privileged host of the EPL with the incredible success due in a large part to the billions like us across the globe who tune in religiously to our screens to marvel at the stars.
It’s high time that overseas based EPL fans are recognised as genuine bona fide, loyal, passionate supporters of the clubs and not seen as plastic, fickle or unlearned.
Speak to an Arsenal die hard in Lagos or a Chelsea Tinotenda nut head in Harare; engage in conversation with a Manchester United fan in Johannesburg or a Liverpool fan in Cairo.
They will leave you dazed, dizzied and dumbfounded by the sheer shock volume of knowledge on their fingertips.
Unfortunately in the process, the majority of them chiefs and pirates have abandoned their love and support for the local game.
They have though taken their passion and pride for the EPL to the next level. They yearn instead for a Liverpool versus Manchester United being played out in front of a filled to the brim capacity crowd at the FNB in Johannesburg!
Watch this space!
Feedback: Twitter @thesoccerwhiz