With the eyes of world zeroing in on Poland and Ukraine this summer, UEFA’s biggest competition goes under the spotlight as the face of International football. It’s a prestigious tournament that has attracted attention from all over Europe but with so much criticism aimed at the pinnacle of the beautiful game, can the Euros rekindle International football?
For the record it’s a disgrace that International football isn’t prioritised by everyone involved. After all it’s the highest level a professional can reach but with so much focus currently placed on rewards gained in domestic football, the attention on the national team has all but diminished. While there’s still a conscious effort from fans to support the nation, those involved in the game appear to have lost interest.
For starters the players don’t seem to like it. It should be the greatest honour they can receive but since they earn more money and play under less scrutiny with their clubs they tend to favour more comfortable surroundings. Take into account the whole squad are considered to be first choice domestically and you can appreciate the frustration of not being guaranteed a starting berth. Not only are they being unfamiliarly overlooked but they must also commit themselves to a cause that isn’t as successful as what they’ve experienced in the league.
It may not be acceptable but it’s understandable and with every tournament taking place at the end of an energy sapping season, involving players who are unmotivated and often playing in high temperatures, is it any surprise that International football has become cagey and lacklustre?
It’s a sad state of affairs when players fail to prioritise the national game but to make matters worse, club managers see it as a distraction too. They berate the duties of their top stars and highlight niggling injuries in an attempt to keep them closer to home. Friendlies have become the bane of every top flight boss but if the national team is to be successful then they need time playing together. It’s a balancing act but the problem is while the matches are necessary, they’re never well scheduled and offer little motivation for players with eyes on more pressing domestic issues. Their club managers influence them on a daily basis compared with the national team’s occasional training sessions so it’s no surprise who the players favour.
While some of their concerns seem reasonable given they’ve no contractual responsibility to the nation, treating International football with contempt is transparently selfish. Top class professionals shouldn’t be so openly dismissive about something that’s meant to be the summit of sporting achievement because the indifference from both players and management is reflecting itself of the level of performance. Friendlies are played out laboriously with little controversy and tournaments are overshadowed by exhausted stars falling to live up to expectation. Fans may still be International football’s shining light but with the level of performance witnessed becoming more and more tedious, it’s inevitable that supporters will eventually lose faith.
Last week I found myself debating the merits of watching Poland v Greece and wondering whether I actually cared about such an uninspiring fixture. As an avid supporter such a situation would’ve been unthinkable a few tournaments ago but after years of underwhelming International football I almost didn’t watch the opening match of Euro 2012. Of course had it been a more marketable fixture then my attention would’ve been drawn more easily but I doubt I was the only one who experienced the same dilemma. Thankfully I gave it a go and was pleased to enjoy a decent start to the tournament but it speaks volumes about the outlook on International football when viewers aren’t sure if they even want to watch the matches.
While many are starting to question the national game, the majority of fans following top 6 clubs have already written off International football. Since they invest in their club’s success they actually place more importance on domestic events and are quite ambiguous when it comes to England’s chances. They’ve never experienced the same level of performance watching the Three Lions so they’re happy to forsake the national team because they get enough satisfaction from their club’s weekly exploits. There are still enough fans to go round but with interest waning and the most popular clubs drawing attention away from International action, it’s difficult to see how the current European Championships can revive such increasing apathy.
After a desperately poor 2010 FIFA World Cup where the best players wilted in the African sun, it was hoped the Euros would restore International football to the summit of the game. A stop start opening to the tournament has heightened concerns and it remains to be seen whether Euro 2012 will etch itself into the memories of supporters. Objectively speaking it’s the opening round and teams tend to favour a more defensive approach but so far it would appear nothing’s changed.
It’s early days and while there may be no jabulani football and no vuvuzelas this time around, International football still can’t afford another damp squib summer showpiece.
Are you enjoying Euro 2012? Do you like International football? Do you prefer to watch your club side than England?
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