Time up for ‘futile’ friendlies

March 28, 2008

Beckham talks to the referee

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.”

Wenger added this:

“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


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Friendlies will never go away because the most important football competitions are international ones and friendlies are crucial for teams to train. But in general, the way all football leagues are scheduled is a little absurd. Club teams go international for exhibition matches, friendlies are propped in the middle of the most important parts domestic league play, etc etc… could there simply be too many football competitions out there?

Posted by clement | Report as abusive

NO!!! That would be even more inconsiderate to the players because it means those playing international football get no summer break. Scrapping friendlies all together is also not the answer and Fergie’s comments that people won’t watch them are devoid of any reality. Most grounds were packed on Wednesday, none more so than the Stade De France and Hampden Park.

Posted by Red Devil | Report as abusive

Well, its the clubs that buy the players for millions of dollars and so if one of them gets injured in one of these friendlies, its natural that the club managers would complain.
But at the end of the day, the big question is not about whether these friendlies should be stopped or whether the clubs can have the authority to release a player or not, but the fact is that a country does and should come before a club right? I personally think so, and so these friendlies should continue.
They may not be playing for a prize money or a trophy, but surely a national team manager needs to build a team, see his players team up together and play well together. And based on these results take decisions for important fixtures like the Euro championships, worldcups etc etc.

Posted by Nachiket | Report as abusive

there is no way, EVER, that friendlies go away. The players union would never agree to tossing away their summer vacation every year which is what would have to happen with all the tournaments that need to be qualified for.

Also, not ever league is off in the summer. What happens to their seasons when 2 months are suddenly ripped out of the middle? They either have to play without their best players or take the time out and start earlier and end later.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Sweden in February or northern Russia in December, but I’m betting it would kill their league a bit to move their seasons like that.

I know it’s weird, but the footballing world doesn’t in fact revolve around England/Spain/Italy/Germany. It does exist outside of there.

Posted by papa bear | Report as abusive