TSN TV Schedule TSN2 TV Schedule
Blogs

Jack: Crucial matchup - International game vs. club game

Kristian Jack
12/27/2013 12:18:14 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

As another year in the soccer world comes to an end, it is important to note it does so without a real feud between the international and club game.

This should be celebrated because it will not always be this way.

With the amount of money given to players by their clubs these days, it is a wonder that so many of those teams allow the sport to continue to take away many of their assets so they can play for a different team in the middle of their season.

Although it is has always been this way, it does not make it right.

Playing for your country in any sport should be an honour, yet it is on this premise that the international game has gotten away with so much in recent years.

Should it really be an honour to have to leave your team in the middle of an important part of the season to head to some foreign land to play an international match that may or may not mean anything?

Never mind the middle of the season, what about the start of it? Is that still an honour that should force players to go?

Once again at the start of this European club season, a nonsensical international window was put in by FIFA, allowing countries to claim their players away from their clubs just hours before they kicked off a new campaign.

At the moment, the relationship between the international game and the club game could be described as moderate.

It is a high-profile game of chess being played out in front of billions of people using millionaire players as pieces on the board.

Too many high-profile managers are afraid to speak out against governing bodies such as UEFA and FIFA while on the other side of the table sits the governing bodies plotting their next move.

Chess players know how important it is to think three moves ahead and, although the 2014 calendar will be dominated by images of the World Cup in Brazil, the years to follow will feature a long list of international games that will mean very little.

UEFA's decision to move to 24 teams for the 2016 European Championships in France mean even fewer qualifiers will matter. Countries like Spain, Germany and Italy, for example, could send their under 21 teams to all their qualifiers and easily reach the tournament.

And these will be the games that matter. Sprinkled amongst them will be 'friendly' games arranged for international managers to see their players close up and try things with them in a game. These are the matches the governing bodies know they need to change.

As we move into 2014, the sports consumer is demanding something important all of the time. A 'tell me it matters' attitude is forcing sports all over the world to come up with tournaments and formats that stop as many meaningless games being played as possible.

And then there is soccer. A sport dominated by club teams that, in 2013, still allow countries to take their players all over the globe to play games that mean nothing.

It simply cannot continue down that path for much longer. Players like Sami Khedira and Christian Eriksen picked up bad injuries in recent international 'friendlies' that significantly affected their club teams. Imagine Lionel Messi breaks his leg playing one of these friendly games for Argentina? 

One of two things need to happen, and will happen sooner rather than later.

FIFA/UEFA will come up with a format to make these games matter, to put countries in league tables – similar to their world rankings – where they will get benefits of seeding for major tournaments and play more teams within their league. This is likely to happen soon because if it doesn't, the clubs will eventually have every right to put pressure on their players to not go for meaningless international matches. A World Cup year is magnificent for the international game but the four years in between are dangerous for FIFA/UEFA, even moreso now that the major tournaments – Euro 2016, Copa America – feature very little serious qualification, if any, for the major countries.

Here in Canada, of course, we watch as outside observers. As 2013 turns into 2014, the sport again reaches new heights in terms of popularity. More people than ever are watching Premier League, Champions League and MLS games on television. With the lack of success of the Canadian men's national team, it is little wonder why most conversations about the professional game in Canada surround club football.

The international game remains popular and Canada will be a wonderful place to sit and watch the 2014 World Cup amongst so many people from different countries. It is, indeed, one of the many things that make this country so great.

However, we must remember it is still Canada. The men's national team has a long way to go to get back on people's radar but, as we head into 2014, it is clear the same cannot be said about the women's game.

In 2014 and 2015 Canada are ready to welcome the world. The 2014 Women's Under 20 World Cup will be a great dress rehearsal for when the main event comes to these shores a year later.
 
The challenge for all international teams is to come close to the cohesion – on and off the pitch – displayed by club teams.

That is already an advantage for Canada, as one of their star players, Diana Matheson, recently told me.

"We really are like a family, the core of the team has been together for a long time and as we get older, we are making sure that everyone new into the camp feels part of it," she said.

Matheson and some of her teammates are not far away from seeing their faces everywhere across Canada during the 2015 World Cup.

"We have a hope of how big we want it to get," she said.

The Canadian Soccer Association is blessed to have the Under 20 World Cup in 2014 as a way of gathering excitement for the big tournament the following summer.

However, as national team defender Carmelina Moscato told me, it is more than just a promotional tool and those playing for Canada in that event will benefit tremendously.

"The tournament in 2002 was what changed our lives – eight or nine of us on the team right now, that's the core group. It was such a kickstart to our careers that it's exciting to know that opportunity is here again and see the next generation of players blossom in their own country."
 
"Playing at home is an incredible experience," added captain Christine Sinclair.

If you wish to watch those games, you should know that venue packs for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Canada 2014 are on sale now and start as low as $40 plus fees. Of note, purchased venue packs in host cities that will also be part of the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™ will give purchasers an opt-in opportunity to be placed on a priority list to purchase venue packs to the 2015 competition in the same official host city. The full pricing chart is available online at FIFA.com/Canada2014.




Cabbie on TSN.ca

The Latest: As Hollywood's largest star, Dwayne Johnson discusses Hercules the mythical character. Cabbie asks about the hours spent in the gym, Johnson's pet boa constrictors and the size of rock needed to make a life sized statue of the star. More...

Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard are paving new ground for Canadian tennis and 17-year-old Francoise Abanda could be Canada's next breakout star. More...

© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television