Joy of joys, international football is back.
Fresh from the delight of watching a fascinating contest between Chelsea and Arsenal in what promises to be another thrilling Premier League title race, we now face the prospect of no domestic football for a whole 13 days.
The European qualifiers take over the footballing world for the next week and a half, but I have to admit that it seems like only yesterday that the last qualifiers took place.
The truth is, I don’t much care for international football. Well, let me clarify that. I don’t much care for international football that isn’t the World Cup or European Championships. It just doesn’t interest me.
Back when I was a kid, it did. But it definitely feels like it was a lot more interesting back then. The games were tighter, the standard was better, and it was the pinnacle of the game.
It’s not any more.
These days, the pinnacle of the game is the Champions League, with La Liga, the Premier League and the Bundesliga propping up Europe’s premier cup competition. It is in those domestic leagues and in the Champions League that we see the world’s very best players, arranged into strong, skilful and exciting teams.
And naturally we want to see more of it.
Where on an international field would you get to see Bale, Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta, Rodriguez, Benzema all in one place?
You wouldn’t. But you do in La Liga. You do in the Champions League.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t care about international football. And I really don’t think I’m alone in that.
I get that in order to have major tournaments like the World Cup and the Euros there needs to be some sort of qualification process, but does it really have to interrupt the season like it does?
There’s an argument that it can actually be detrimental to teams’ progress in the relevant domestic cup competitions too. As they say, momentum is a big thing in football, and stringing a few wins together can do wonders for individual and collective confidence.
What happens to that confidence, though, when a team that has had a shaky start to the season wins a few games, gets all their confidence back … and then they don’t get to play for two weeks? All of a sudden, that newfound enthusiasm is lost. Players leave the camp to head off to their respective international set-up. Some of them might get injured, others fatigued; others still disenfranchised.
My answer to the question of whether the international period really needs to interrupt the season like it does is simple: no, it does not.
Why not play all of the qualifiers in two chunks? One at Christmas time, and one at the close of the season?
Not only would this eliminate the problems that we have been discussing, but it might also entice the general public to be a little bit more engaged with international football. You could even turn the qualifiers into a bit of a tournament in themselves; with a knockout stage, round robin – whatever you wanted.
Right now, no one’s happy. The fans don’t want to see international football interrupting the domestic season – this is irrefutable given attendances. The players would much rather focus on their paymasters. The international managers have barely any time to get their strategy across to their players. The domestic managers lose the continuity of a week-in, week-out training scenario. Put it like that, and it’s obviously madness. But yet it continues, every single season. I’ve had enough of it, and I’ll be voting with my remote this week and watching some ludicrous reality talent show instead. It’s the only way.