Once a month every fall, the dreaded international break forces itself on the domestic soccer calendar, and it always seems to foist the ages old club vs country debate into the limelight.
Last month, Raheem Sterling was thrown into the limelight for complaining he was “tired” while on England duty after undergoing different recovery under Roy Hodgson as to what he has become accustomed to under Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. Too often, players are found to be “injured” only to return to their club sides immediately after the break. Players are flown off to locations all over the world to play in glamorous friendlies at half intensity to expand the brand of the global game.
Many fans use the international break as an opportunity to pursue interests during the ten days since they are unable to watch their favorite club in action. In recent times, attendance at grounds for international matches has dwindled, as highlighted by a half empty Wembley last month for England’s Euro 2016 qualifier against San Marino, as well as the rampant corruption in FIFA, making some think if international football is a dying breed that only crops up every other June.
On Friday night, the 25,000 who ventured to Craven Cottage on the banks of the River Thames for the friendly between the United Stares and Colombia must not have gotten that memo. A full house that was energetic and passionate from the first whistle to the last created a phenomenal atmosphere, despite both teams missing key players, with Radamel Falcao out for Colombia and Clint Dempsey out for the United States. The vibe for the match was set as early as two hours before kickoff as fans made their presence felt all around SW6 on the long walk from the Putney Bridge tube station to Craven Cottage, proudly displaying their nation’s flags, blowing horns and playing music from boom boxes. Crowds lined up outside Craven Cottage before the gates opened, making it nearly impossible to walk around the ground, with stewards making instructions via megaphones in both English and Spanish.
Despite the fact that the match was billed as a United States home match and United States Soccer billboards were to be found all over the side of the pitch, sitting in the American Outlaws section in the Hammersmith End had the feel of sitting in the away end at a Premier League match. The other 3 sides of the stadium were a sea of yellow shirts and yellow, blue and red flags.