West Ham United: West Ham, Diafra Sakho And The Tangle With FIFA

Recent verdict of FIFA to fine West Ham United £ 71,000 has revived an old debate. Club or Country.

Ever heard of players avoiding club matches in order to play for their nation? Seems like an odd situation, however the opposite is acceptable and quite common in football. Since when did Club football become more important than playing for your country?

In the age old days of bows and arrows, counties with small armies often hired paid men to bolster their forces to fight for their side. These special breed of men neither had a country they called home nor did they pledge loyalty to one, their only driving force was money. Mercenary, a name given to a breed of warriors who would fight for the side that paid them with no remorse. Today in the world of football, a list of players can be named for their undying loyalty to their colors. However, many have been shown to look out for the ones that pay money over honor.

Club over Nation

There have been players of great quality and caliber who have all missed world cups due to injury, and one can be pretty sure it would have been the most painful injury of their career, just ask Walcott and Reus. However when it comes to choosing between club football and a non-world cup national tournaments, some players have often been criticised for choosing to stay back for their professional body rather than their country. One such player who recently faced the wrath of FIFA president Michael Platini was Bayern Munich star and French Winger Frank Ribery. When announcing that he would like to retire in order to concentrate on club football a heated debate began wherein he received threats from Platini of a match ban and criticism from a few fans that he choose money over his country.

Although the Ribery Platini spat eventually died down, a recent incident has brought such a situation back to light and sparked a debate on where the player’s priorities lie. With the recently concluded African Cup of Nations, and West Hams FA Cup draw against Bristol City. As the physiotherapist at West Ham declared Shako unfit to travel and hence keeping away from the African cup of nations, the Senegalese came off the bench to score a stunner for his side to go into the next round of the competition. Nevertheless, West Ham followed its celebration by a heavy dose of criticism from the Senegal FA. The African sides Association reportedly complained to FIFA asking Shako to be banned and or fined and West Ham should be disqualified from the competition.

West Ham vs Senegal FA

Fifa rules clearly states that a player cannot play for the club if he is on international duty. However, West Ham Coach, Big Sam insists his club has not broken any rules. Stating that his player was prevented from flying due to which unlike the rest of the team he was transported by road to the FA cup draw and also to the game against Liverpool. However the Senegalese coach Alain Giresse was furious as he criticized West Ham for their deceptive behavior and joked that he would like to know of the miracle medicine that fixes backs instantly.

Senegal have every right to appeal to  FIFA as they feel it was unfair that a player feigned injury in order to save his club from

Sakho for West Ham not for Senegal

Sakho for West Ham not for Senegal

a possible FA cup defeat. Had he played for his country, maybe he would have been instrumental in keeping Senegal in the African cup of nations. Having kept him from traveling, they feel the Club influences players from playing for their country by luring them with money. On the other hand West Ham’s argument also stands to make sense as they claim that Senegal couldn’t offer a good quality medical services due to which Shako has a prolonged back injury. When initially Senegal insisted that he should fly down to his hometown for medical treatment and the West Ham physician prevented him from flying, the club in turn asked the country’s FA to send a doctor of their choice to examine his injury. This effort too seemed quite redundant as the Senegal FA took no action. West Ham also claimed that since his name was only in the provisional squad, technically he was not a part of the playing team and hence isn’t covered by the rule. However after careful consideration, FIFA have recently issued a fine on West Ham for 71,000 £ and closed the case.

In today’s footballing world there are always two schools of thought one, sympathizing with the country and stating that players must be made to compulsorily play for their nation if they are picked as it is a great honor. The Football associations of the country state that by having players of great caliber play for the national side not only  gives them a better chance at winning the competition but also gives the country much needed publicity that helps  the overall development of the game back at home. Two, the people who side with the club and more over the player, state that it should be up to the player where he wishes to play. If someone were more comfortable playing for the club and decides to retire from the national side so as to concentrate on the job that earns him a living for his future, then who are we to stop the player from denying his choices. The dilemma as to who is right and who isn’t will forever be an ongoing debate. However the fact still remains that letting your opinion known is any day better than providing false excuses to escape a responsibility, something which the Senegal board has accused the London club and Shako off.

If you were faced with a similar situation whose actions would you justify, the Club’s or the National Teams?