In an ideal world, Carlos Vela would play a football match on Saturday at North London, fly to Mexico City on Sunday and play another match on Friday night at the beautiful Estadio Azteca. With God’s gratitude of ‘young age’ on his side, he would make another trip to some stadia in Europe on Saturday, entertain the crowd with his ‘Mexican Flair’ on Tuesday and finally return with all bones intact on Thursday to join training at The Emirates. He has another football match to play on a Saturday, if the Almighty is worshipped for HIS generosity, that match would be a home affair.

Sadly, it is not an ideal world we live in, Vela would be either ‘jetlagged’, ‘mentally bruised’ or his passport might go missing yet again before that league match is played on a Saturday. Like Vela, even Manchester United’s Ji Sung Park needs to travel miles to ‘try to bring a balance between club and country’. Vela and Park are regular starters for their national team, but they are not the only ones who find it difficult to switch their loyalty between Club and Country.

Is it impossible to get a perfect balance between the C’s? Impossible? No! Improbable? Maybe.

Zidane - The Perfect Balance between Club and Country?

For a footballer aspiring for both Club-n-Country successes, it is an ultimate Catch-22 situation to be in. If you concentrate hard on your club career and try to achieve club-level-prominence, you need to sacrifice playing for your country and thereby making yourself available for world-wide flak involving ‘lack of patriotism, negligence towards one’s motherland’ and some such universal-jingoistic-batter. To be very practical, bringing a balance between the two is very difficult if you need to travel a lot, it eats away a lot of your mental health as well as your physical stamina. The constant pressure of performing week-in-and-week-out at club level is good enough for a player to stay motivated for the better part of his career. Though, for some players, attaining ‘International success’ like ‘winning the World Cup with one’s country’ stands out as achievement-numero-uno.

In a sample case-study of an English player who is not at all injury-prone, this is the number of matches he’ll have to play if he represents a top English club.

–          6 matches at FA Cup (without replays)

–          7 matches at Carling Cup (without replays)

–          10 matches at UEFA Champions League if Quarter-Finals stage is reached.

–          38 League games.

–          5 other miscellaneous games including Pre-Season and Community Shield.

–          10 matches for country. (excluding ‘pointless’ friendlies)

That is a grand total of 76 matches in a year which has only 52 weeks in it. For such ‘hard work’ over the season, players are paid ‘extravagant salaries’ by their club. Rightly so? We’ll leave that piece of discussion to another day.

United legend? What if he had played for England all his life?

So, here lies the predicament for a football player, who ‘we-shall-never-doubt-his-patriotism’ needs to choose between his high-paying ‘employers’ and his ‘motherland’. If a footballer travels 1000 miles and above to play a ‘pointless’ friendly and comes back injured to his club, eventually missing out ‘an important part of the season’, was traveling that far really worth it? Can’t there be a mutual conformity between club and country managers regarding how footballers need to roll-out their careers? Is the World Cup and perhaps the Euro Cup (and other equivalents of that cup) enough to prove your worth at country-level? Considering all pros-and-cons, there has to be a limit to the qualifiers for these tournaments, perhaps a change in format, and moreover, we need to bid adieu to senseless friendly matches otherwise ‘talents’ like Robin Van Persie would occupy Medical Rooms for all his life rather than winning trophies for his club.

Van Persie - 'Crocked' at International Friendlies or in general?

Zinedine Zidane, arguably the greatest footballer ever, achieved that ‘perfect balance’ to peform at an optimum level for both club and country. But, then, many would argue, he played most of his club football in Spain and Italy, making his ‘travels’ quite short. On the other hand, Paul Scholes, a Manchester United legend, sacrificed playing for his country and reaped dividends for his club over the years. Would he have achieved the same for United had he played for England all this while? These are some of the most intricate issues left unattended in world football.

We leave you with the most celebrated quote in the history of the game regarding this sensitive issue.

What the national coaches are doing is like taking the car from his garage without even asking permission. They will then use the car for ten days and abandon it in a field without any petrol left in the tank. We then have to recover it, but it is broken down. Then a month later they will come to take your car again, and for good measure you’re expected to be nice about it.” Arsene Wenger quoted.

6 Responses to “The Perfect Balance Between Club And Country – A Myth?”

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  1. Somnath Sengupta says:

    The number of friendlies should be decreased, or teams should play friendlies with neighbouring countries to prevent jetlag.

    On the other hand meaningless tournaments like League Cup (it’s doesnt even have historical value unlike FA Cup) should be scrapped.

  2. sounak says:

    @Som: The League Cup is like our local CFL. There is a league tournament for every tier in England and then there is the FA Cup for all.

  3. Vikas Shashidhar says:

    beautifully written. i definitely have to agree with the pointless international friendlies and the change of format for qualifiers. there’s simply no sense if Italy plays faroe island or if england play sri lanka in a friendly. maybe they can format it like the UCL or FA cup qualifying formats where the lower ranked teams compete and come in to face the big guns later.

  4. Dinar says:

    Came across one article a week ago where it pointed ‘meaningless’ Euro Qualifiers like Italy vs Faroe Islands, Germany vs Macedonia, etc. Even those, kinda one-sided qualifiers, should be scrapped IMO and instead UEFA and others should filter out weak teams very early during these qualifiers and pit these weak team against one another and then make the cut for qualifying groups instead of playing against likes of Italy, Serbia, Slovenia in one group in case of Faroe Islands for eg.

    But thats a different issue I guess.