Playing for their country was once regarded as a matter of pride and honour for footballers, the world over. It used to be a dream for a young footballer to represent his nation, sing the National Anthem along with the capacity crowds before a game and most of all to do something that will bring glory to the nation and joy for its millions of residents.
The likes of Pele and Maradona are considered amongst the greatest footballers because of their heroics on the international stage. Both of them have pretty successful club careers, but playing in the national colours was the thing that they cherished the most. They became role models for the kids in their respective countries, and in turn inspired those very youngsters to take up the beautiful game.
Today, most of the top stars wish to give up playing for their country in order to prolong their club careers which brings them more money and more glamour. During the past month several players have decided to ‘take a break’ from international football. Wes Brown and Dimitar Berbatov have joined club-mates Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in partial retirement. Chelsea star Michael Essien has also decided to take a break from playing for Ghana in order to focus on his club career. There are several other players who have been doing very well for their respective clubs but have retired from international football such as Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Edwin Van Der Sar.
Putting club over country
Managers of the big clubs have also questioned the need of friendlies which has somewhat tainted the image of international football. Reputed managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have publicly criticized international friendlies and often expressed their desire to bring an end to such kind of matches. Although some feel that they might have a case, it is undeniable that these matches do provide a chance for national managers to fine tune their squads for the big games such as the qualifiers and international tournaments. The club managers’ influence on their players’ decision making also does not help matters as many believe that they play a crucial role in the players’ decision to retire from international football.
The retirement of good players is also a cause for decrease in quality of football on view. Fans want the best players to be involved, the players who could make a difference and also who could produce moments of magic to win a game for their country. In the absence of these players, games between countries are considered dull as compared to club football and hence most audiences tend to avoid watching these matches. As a result fewer sponsors are willing to invest in these matches, thanks to which most of the matches are not telecast globally.
King of Old Trafford only
More players should take their international careers seriously – for their country, for the fans, for the beautiful game and most importantly for their own good. There have been footballers in the past like Nedved, Cantona and even the great George Best who are legends for their respective clubs but are not considered in the league of Pele, Maradona and Zidane simply because they have nothing to show for at the international level.
It is time that the players understand that club football can only bring them glory, but that it takes success at an international level to turn them into something truly legendary.