Gentleman, let us put away childish things.
Yes, international breaks can provide some godawful football. Yes, it doesn’t seem fair for a player to risk injury for a team he plays with only five times a year and miss games for the club that employs him on a weekly basis. Yes, nations like Lichtenstein don’t give much bang for your underdog dollar when facing Germany.
But to call international football boring, to curse the name of the foreign sounding manager who would dare call up your club star to represent the nation that raised him, to rant on whatever message board or blog that will let you about the inanity of Wales versus Finland, France versus Lithuania, is arrogant in the extreme.
Hatred for the international break comes from the same school of thought that calls for the abolishment of the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, and the speedy introduction of the European Super League. If the same nations always seem to advance in international tournaments, the absurd logic goes, why not give them an automatic berth and have everyone else duke it out over the summer?
Well, for one, things change in international football, if maybe not fast enough for the club supporter who mentally erases the club season just as soon as it’s over. Hungary were considered a global footballing power in the 1950s, along with Austria in the 1920s. Yugoslavia, Denmark and Greece have more European Championships than England. Hell, Uruguay twice as many World Cups as England. Brazil was once considered small potatoes in South America, and Argentina didn’t participate in international tournaments for two decades out of fear of embarrassment. Who’s to say Ivory Coast, South Korea, or even the United States won’t one day win a World Cup?
Sure, these are established footballing countries with ambitious national programs, but what about San Marino and the Faroe Islands? These tiny nations are unlikely to take a national tournament by storm, but is it fair to take away the right of nations to compete in the most popular game on the planet just because you get a bit bored one Saturday or Wednesday out the season? If you ask any professional footballer, they will often point to international caps as the highlight of their career. It could be something curmudgeonly club-shirted punters, Best-Of DVDs in hand, might never understand.