Time up for ‘futile’ friendlies
My colleague Zoran Milosavljevic was enthused about Wednesday’s batch of friendlies but not everyone was so impressed. Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger both pondered the death of the international friendly after the midweek ‘action’ and they were not alone.
Other than the dramatic 4-3 victory by the Dutch, who had been trailing 3-0 to Euro 2008 co-hosts Austria, Wednesday’s games were a poor advert for mid-season international football with many players coming back injured — much to the annoyance of their club managers.
Ferguson did not hold back when asked what he thought of the matches after Darren Fletcher returned injured from helping Scotland draw 1-1 with Croatia.
“It was a bad blow with Darren Fletcher, which to me just emphasises the futility of playing these friendly games. It’s crazy. We have lost him for six weeks now… It’s crazy and supporters will stop going to these kind of games anyway, paying all that money and travelling. I think every manager knows, deep down, that they are a waste of time.”
“I’m scared that in the modern game, there is no room any more for friendly internationals. Not because countries take our players, just because people will not be interested in that anymore. There is nothing at stake. People want to see competitive games. Maybe I’m completely wrong but is it in the long term organisable for people to travel and spend their money to watch this kind of game? I’m not sure.”
Aston Villa’s Martin O’Neill, Fulham boss Roy Hodgson and Steve Bruce of Wigan all complained as well, while Blackburn manager Mark Hughes will be the most fed up of all after seeing his South African midfielder Aaron Mokoena injure his Paraguayan club colleague Roque Sante Cruz in their international friendly.
So with all this unrest is it time FIFA acted and separated the international season from the domestic season and have all internationals played in a six week window in the summer?
PHOTO: David Beckham talks to German referee Florian Meyer during France’s win over England in Paris, March 26, 2008 REUTERS/Charles Platiau