Today’s Football Guru Searching For Answers In The Digital Abyss

“Who pays the players when they’re on international duty?” asks Doug.

Here in the football wilderness that is the states, I find more and more of my friends, neighbors and coworkers growing curious about the beautiful game. The “football-curious” we’ll call them. And since they know me as somebody who’s fanatical about the sport, they inevitably come to me when they have questions. (If they looked a little harder I’m sure they could find somebody with deeper knowledge than myself, somebody who’s followed word football a lot longer than I have. But for now, I’m what they’ve got.)

I find they often get hung-up on the concept of International v. Club football. I did too when I started following. In America the idea of the National Team is not as entrenched in our mainstream sports culture as it is in world football (unless the Olympic games happen to be on). And while Americans will follow certain national teams for our popular sports, like basketball and baseball and hockey, those teams don’t play so often we need to worry about when our star players are called up or worry about them picking up injuries in between club fixtures. Sure we have the World Series in baseball. But this is slathered in irony on par with our Orwellian  “Department of Defense”: the only team from outside the United States with any hope of getting in the “World Series” is Toronto.

But I was stumped by my football-curious coworker Doug’s question: who pays the players when they go on international duty? I didn’t know. It was one of those things that sounded vaguely familiar. Like I’d read about this somewhere at some point but it was buried in the deep annals of my mind beneath the opening paragraph of the Gettysburg Address and the basics of pre-Calculus. Either that or it rode the brain cells I’d sacrificed to the gods of time and drink off into the ether.

I asked Des, our resident Scottish bartender and football fanatic. He didn’t know either. This made me feel somewhat better. But I was still failing as local football guru.

So I went home and turned to the internet. At once a vast network of everything you ever wanted to know about everything and an endless abyss of more than you ever wanted to know about anything.

How did we live before the internet? We must have stayed up all night – tossing, turning, trying to remember that tiny factoid, nipping at the tip of the tongue of the mind.

Now we flip open the laptop and Google away.

As best as I can understand it from scraps unearthed hither and yon and on, the players are paid weekly by their clubs so when they are off on international duty they are getting the same paycheck as when they are at home playing in a domestic fixture. There has been some contention over whether or not this should be the case. And of course the question of how could the Ivory Coast’s football association afford Didier Drogba if this system were ever changed.

Then there is the question of a player getting injured on international duty. The club can lose a star after international injury but must keep paying said player. (See: Michael Owen in 2006.)

To ease this the governing bodies have begun compensating clubs when players are injured during international play. Last year FIFA and UEFA agreed to pay clubs when players are injured in World Cup and Euro finals and the FA compensates English clubs toward injured players’ salaries through an insurance system.

The most recent article I found on this came from July, a piece written on the AIFF (All Indian Football Federation) and their attempts to implement a similar insurance scheme in India.

Of course there could be further developments swimming around out their in the vast ocean that is the internet. That’s part of the problem. You think you’ve found all the answers, but deeper digging could prove you wrong. The search engines are fast and bring back a wealth of results. But they aren’t quite smart enough to know exactly what you are looking for.

I could keep digging – I should keep digging, but this writer has to close the laptop and get to work. Hopefully Doug is satisfied with what I’ve eked out of the web. Otherwise, he might go looking for a new football guru.


  1. Leeboy October 14, 2009
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  3. AtlantaPompey October 16, 2009

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