Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Club versus Country? I know which one I prefer.

It’s a proper weekend of football again, thank goodness.

Last weekend was disastrous. International weekend. I hate them. No Premiership or Championship football. No decent games to watch on television. Last weekend was so wet in England that the game for the team I coach was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, my youngest son’s game was also postponed and my eldest son couldn’t play in his team’s game because he was injured.

I had a football free weekend and that can’t be right in September! I didn’t know what to do with myself. I almost ended up having to go shopping for goodness sake!

The fact that I hate international week so much proves conclusively to me that when it comes to club versus country debate I know that I sit firmly on the side of club.

It isn’t that I hate watching England or that I am not patriotic. I cried into my pint when we failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and I get just as irrationally optimistic about our chances in tournaments that we do qualify for as the next man.

It has to be said that watching England play tends to come somewhere between watching paint dry and watching the Antiques Roadshow on television for me in the excitement stakes, but it is still a game of football and I care about the outcome.

It is just that a typical Saturday for me involves all the excitement of not just the games involving the teams I care about but all of the other games as well. There are all the television programmes showing the goals and highlights and there is the fascination of analysing the league tables afterwards.

It is an all consuming passion that fills almost every waking hour. On international weekend there is none of that. There is just one game to watch that rarely inspires or entertains in the way that club games do.

Football is a game that is great to watch whether you have an interest in the teams playing or not. Obviously, watching your own team is the height of the enjoyment (other than England) but it is possible to thoroughly enjoy a game between two sides who mean nothing to you.

Often, on a Sunday afternoon I will sit down to watch the live game on Sky television with an anticipation and excitement that is way out line with what a game between Middlesbrough and Stoke City should invoke in anyone!

I can watch lower league games and absolutely love them. I can even watch non-league football and get engrossed in the whole thing. Despite that, when I watch international football, I rarely enjoy it anywhere near as much.

Presumably, by definition, the quality of international football is the highest standard we can see anywhere. Therefore, to a football fan it should be the very pinnacle of the game. It should be the best thing we can watch.

So why isn’t it?

Well, Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher may have given us the answer last week when he said that he felt defeat for Liverpool much more than he ever felt defeat for England. My initial reaction was one of horror to what he said as I believe that players should be prepared to do anything for their country and representing them should be the proudest thing in their lives. Then I realised that watching them is nowhere near as enjoyable as watching club games.

There is no day to day involvement with the national side. If your club lose a game on a Saturday there is often a game a few days later where that memory can be erased and optimism can be re-ignited. With the national side, it can be months before there is a chance to erase a poor performance or build on a good one.

With club football you can meet the players at open days, read all about them on the club website and feel a part of the whole thing. At international level, none of those things are possible.

Also, of course, at international level you have to cheer and support players who on a week to week basis you can’t stand. It must be difficult for Liverpool or Everton fans to support Wayne Rooney or Manchester United fans to get fully behind Steve Gerrard.

I don’t know if things are the same in other countries but can Real Madrid fans celebrate fully when a Barcelona player scores the winning goal for Spain? Do Inter fans celebrate the brilliance of Milan players in the Italian side?

I’m glad that there is no international football for a while. I’m glad we can get back to normal. I’m glad that I can have a football filled weekend. Unlike last week, I’m really excited that it is Saturday again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Graham Fisher


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Club is better than country. Listen to Arsene Wenger, “In club football, the best play together”. That is all that we need to know. Ryan Giggs, George Best, Aleksandr Hleb, Gudjohnsen, Vucinic, will we ever see them in a World Cup? No, but we get to see them star for their clubs. Go Gunners and Allez les Bleus, but Go Gunners is far more important.

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