Of all the problems plaguing modern football the biggest, and the first that I would change, is international football. No more World Cup, no more Euro Cup, no more Under 19, Under 16, Under 3, nationalistic pointlessness, I’d get rid of it all. It just seems like a holdover from when Europeans used to kill each other over a line in the forest somewhere. For example, there’s an Andorran national team. A country the size of the city I live in, with half the population is fielding a national team in all of these competitions. And what are they playing for? Andorran pride? What’s that some kind of veiled racism or pathetic nationalism?
More than any spectacular football, the international breaks signal a chance for horrible people like Michel Platini to bleat on about quotas, for fans to display their racism, for football associations to propose preposterous rules changes, for players to give interviews, to watch some really crappy football, and for the specter of injuries to raise it’s ugly head.
Yes, the internationals, what a great idea. Let’s whip people into a nationalistic fervor over a pointless game so that players and associations like UEFA can have a platform to change the game I love while extracting the very last Euro out of the average fan’s wallet.
As the links above show, this break is no different than any other. We start off with the FA’s announcement that they are looking into a “homegrown” quota system. Basically, it takes Platini’s horribly racist idea of forcing clubs to check passports before they field a team and waters it down by allowing teams to simply follow the current quota rules for Champions League qualification. Which is to say that no matter where you were born as long as you were educated at the club, you count as “homegrown.” Actually, I’m fine with this, mostly because I think it will shut Platini and the English nationalists up about Arsenal’s academy.
These homegrown plans always make me wonder why UEFA and FIFA and the FA refuse to deal with problems like Spanish racism before they start worrying about the passports of players on a club like Arsenal? I’ll tell you why! Because the line between the nationalism they are peddling in the guise of “International Football” and outright racism is more permeable than the Maginot line. You need look no further than the fact that a club like Zenit can openly discriminate against blacks and still be allowed to play in UEFA tournaments or a national team like Spain has so many openly racist supporters that the English team needs 500 cops to protect them from the Spanish supporters to see that there’s a serious problem brewing here. How can those organizations let those teams play unless the reality is that they need those racist fans? Surely not every Spanish fan is racist but a large enough number are that these organizations have to play this balancing act between nationalism and racism.
From “homegrown” quotas we move on to the Irish FA recommending a “sin-bin” for yellow carded players. I understand where this comes from because in a sense it is unfair that a player who gets a fifth yellow is suspended for the next game but there’s just two minor drawbacks to the sin bin idea; the referees seem to have a problem getting calls right, and the referees seem to have a problem getting the calls right. Now I know that technically those two are the same thing, but they seem important enough to mention twice.
On the face of it, it seems like a good idea, like if there was a sin bin maybe Bolton wouldn’t be as quick to tackle. But the problem is that you only need to look at the last game against Bolton to see what would happen: Arsenal got as many yellows as Bolton did! The sin bin idea isn’t going to stop a team like Bolton from kicking Arsenal off the pitch because the refs let teams like Bolton get away with more before they get a yellow. No, it won’t make the game better, it would just give as all another reason to bitch about the refs.
Not to be outdone by the executives in charge of the game, players too use the international break as a soapbox on which they can give their opinion — and for us Arsenal fans that usually means some disgruntled (former) employee. This time it was the exception that proves the rule and Gilberto gave a very respectful, thoughtful, and even-handed interview about Arsenal’s struggles since he left. Just one quote from the interview should remind us all what we loved about Gio: he was a selfless, hard working, respectful player who did everything asked of him out of love for the club.
It’s a big period for Arsenal. Since I was there they haven’t experienced a situation like this. Now they are out of the Champions League places which is very uncomfortable but I’m sure they will pick up points and get back and qualify for the Champions League like we expect. They’ve got quality and a good manager, Arsène Wenger, will do a good job with them.
♬ Mister, we could use a man like Gilberto Silva again… ♬
And if you’re able to stomach all of that and sit down to actually watch a match, well then you’re likely to be treated to a display of football futility like the goal by Bischoff linked above. I’ll concede that you might catch a beautiful goal or two, I guess Robinho had one yesterday against Italy, and you might even get a good match every once in a while, but the vast majority of these matches are just dross. No one, not players, managers, fans, no one on earth wants to see the Malta first team play; much less their U21 (yes, they have a U21).
Given all that, I say down with the internationals! Instead, let’s give hard working footballers a week off and let them travel to Malta to enjoy the sandy beaches without the added pressure of giving an interview, or having the ignominy of being booted out of some pointless tournament at the hands of the mighty Maltese FA.
What am I saying? They’ll never give up on these tournaments. There’s too much money to be made off the suckers who watch them.