Club Versus Country

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Football, International Football, Opinion
Tags: , , , , , ,


There seems to be more international football matches nowadays than ever before. To me it is an irritant rather than something to look forward to. Here is what I thought about it a just over a year ago.

The football season just starts and we need a break for internationals. We get a month or so further down the line and we need another break for internationals. Some of them are qualifiers, meaningless or otherwise, some of them are just friendlies, meaningless friendlies.

OK, the qualifiers are a necessary evil. It just seems strange that they have to be played just after the season starts. It’s a little bit like the transfer window still being open in August. Most fans just want to settle down for the season and watch their team win the title/have a decent season/win a cup/get relegated or whatever. They don’t want to be thinking about players coming or going after the season has started, in the same way as they don’t want to be thinking about a blank weekend when one of their players may get injured just after the season has started.

The FA don’t care of course. Their one and only burning desire at present is to recover some of the obscene amount of money they wasted when building “new” Wembley. They can do this by arranging meaningless friendlies thereby disrupting the season and cancelling the Premier league for a weekend. This also guarantees that the addicts who must attend a game every week only have Wembley to go to.

My feelings on the amount of games hosted by Wembley are well documented so I won’t cover old ground. For anybody who is interested here’s a short article I wrote a couple of years ago for HITC

The other problem thrown up by these international games is the club versus country dilemma.

I expect that most footballers would be proud to represent their country at some stage of their career. I never have had and never will have a problem with this. Where the water seems to get a bit muddy, from the fans point of view anyway, is who actually decides whether or not a player should turn up for international duty?

Surely the final decision is with the club who do, after all, pay the player’s wages. If the club deems a player injured then what right has any international team to question that judgement and demand that the player be examined by their own doctors? None whatsoever as far as I am concerned.

Where it would be acceptable would be if the country were to pay the player’s wages while he is with the national team, then they may have a right. Where it would also be acceptable is, when the player gets injured on international duty, then the national team pays his wages until he is fully recovered. To my knowledge these thing don’t happen. I am reasonably sure that some FA’s around the world pay compensation but others don’t. It is the usual mishmash that is international football.

The current “disagreement” between Manuel Pellegrini and Vincent Kompany could easily have been avoided. The player in question needs to be sensible, not selfish. In Kompany’s case it is entirely unreasonable to sit out five games for your club due to injury and then, against the manager’s wishes, go and play for your country. Kompany’s wages are paid by City, not Belgium. If he had been injured playing for Belgium it is City who would have suffered, not Belgium. Also, who does Kompany think could make his life more miserable, Manuel Pellegrini or Marc Wilmots? Kompany has been selfish, not sensible.

It is, of course, a never-ending debate. Countries who have strong leagues and weak national teams, such as England, don’t want breaks for international football disrupting their season. When it is nearly fifty years since your country last won a trophy, international football becomes rather irrelevant. Countries who have strong national teams, such as Spain, Germany and Italy will always look forward to international tournaments because they will always feel that they have a chance of winning them.

I suppose that, in the end, the strength of your national team dictates whether or not you begrudge your club releasing players to them.


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