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International football must not be killed by the most powerful clubs
DOMESTIC football has returned after what many see as the sickly sweet methadone of international fixtures.
In England, most football fans appear to put club before country, not least because of the extremes of unbelievable hype and hugely over-the-top disappointment when reality hits home.
The most recent international break was swiftly followed by a meeting of the European Club Association (ECA), which is essentially a reformation of the defunct G-14, but now with a total of 201 clubs rather than 18.
What they are demanding may be welcomed by many fans in this country, who no longer feel love and excitement for the international game.
Essentially, they want fewer international matches each year and more revenue from FIFA and UEFA tournaments, namely the World Cup and European Championships.
This year, including the cancelled Holland game, England have nine fixtures –around a third less than other nations such as Spain, Italy and Brazil – and club’s don’t really get anything out of it, other than a risk of injuries and compensation should that occur.
They argue the schedule is already too congested and that meaningless fixtures should be culled. The thing is, they have no problem creating more meaningless fixtures for themselves. Aside from summer tours to the Far East or North America, the Champions League is a shining beacon of the clubs’ abilities to play the tune.
I’m sure most fans would rather a return to the old straight knock-out format of the European Cup, fought between bona-fide Champions, rather than wasting half the season with meaningless games as Man United’s B team take on the second best team in Switzerland.
International football for me, should still be the pinnacle of the game.
Without an ability to be partisan, football loses a certain edge. A great game will always be a great game, but for every Liverpool v Alaves from 2001, you get two like AC Milan and Juventus in 2003.
Even when Man United and Chelsea squared up in the 2008 final in Moscow, other than the fans concerned who really cared which side won?
International football however, brings together a far wider cross section of supporters.
Go beyond Hampshire and watching a Saints game in a pub can be a fairly lonely experience. Watching an England (or in my case Ireland) match however is a very different experience.
Ultimately, the ECA are only trying to protect their financial interests. Football as entertainment for supporters barely even registers on the radar.
International football, like the domestic version, can be brilliant, enthralling, turgid and dull. It has its problems – not least FIFA itself – but that doesn’t mean it should be cast aside or hacked down to a shadow of what it was.
The ECA may have the power at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we should lose other forms of the game which those clubs deem pointless, be they international matches or the League Cup.
Football is entertainment for fans, and the sooner the people in the sport at least try to acknowledge that, the better it’ll be for everyone.
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