Friendly Fire


As late August approaches, we're getting dangerously close to having regular competitive football again. There is much to be resolved, with the majority of clubs still having transfer business to do and players trying to get themselves back to full fitness.

So what better time for a round of international friendlies that nobody cares about?

The Premier League season starts next Saturday and managers have their players disappearing off all over the planet. On Wednesday, for instance, Newcastle United's Cheik Tiote could well find himself playing for the Ivory Coast against Russia in Moscow, just three days before the Magpies' opening game against Spurs.

England play Italy at Wembley next Wednesday. Do we really need to go through that again? I'm sure Amir Khan doesn't fancy meeting up with Danny Garcia for a play fight any time soon. Given that we're in pre-season Roy Hodgson can only pick players based on the last time he saw them perform... which was against Italy in Euro 2012. He now gets a chance to see if he can do things differently and come away with a better result, but it's hardly going to allow him to discover much about the players available to him. 

England's first qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup is on September 9 against Moldova. In theory, the fixtures are taking place to prepare teams for this round of games, but what can they really learn about players who are going through their pre-season? From the point of view of the clubs, it creates disruption to training and means momentum is lost, not to mention the added risk of injury to players. It makes more sense for managers to scout players through the first few weeks of the season and pick their squads based on that.

The European Clubs Association and UEFA agreed in February that these fixtures should be dropped, but FIFA wouldn't sanction it. How is not listening to those who actually play the game “for the good of the game”? It's not as if this was just the big clubs trying to make their own lives easier; most top flight teams across Europe have international players in their ranks now and if these concerns weren't valid they wouldn't be raised in the first place. As ever, FIFA haven't listened and show themselves to disregard the realities of football in its modern form.

It's getting to the point where I wish they would come out and admit that they actually just enjoy seeing how people react to their weird decisions. Why else would they have decided to host a World Cup in the desert that will be cooled down with artificial clouds and partially played in a stadium that floats in the sea? They're laughing at us.

With the Olympics in full flow these games couldn't be less interesting. South Korea Vs Zambia? Canada Vs Trinidad and Tobago? Portugal Vs Panama? They seem almost embarrassing. It feels like FIFA are saying; “You might be enjoying all these weird sports like archery and throwing but don't forget what the main event is!”

International football should be a big deal. It is a big deal. But persisting with theses fixtures in the face of so much opposition from those that have to play them - and so much indifference from those who are supposed to be interested - devalues something that deserves to be taken seriously and disregards the needs of clubs and players who have better things to be getting on with. Top work, FIFA.