Friday, 28 December 2012

Hey FIFA! Leave our Xmas alone!

At Christmas mainland Europe puts it’s feet up. Footballers, managers, coaches and fans all take a breather, go on holiday and recharge the batteries. All while casting an inquisitive and confused eye across the sea at Britain.

Here Christmas Day is just another workday for those in the game, albeit one with a slightly bigger dinner than usual. Training while others are opening presents and opening the sherry. It has been called an archaic remnant, one from bygone days which should probably be cast aside in this enlightened era of modern football. It causes debate and splits opinion. Should English football have a winter break? It’s a topic which has been around for many years and shows no sign of going away.

The arguments and reasoning are many and on the whole, fairly compelling. Players play too much these days, the speed of the modern game means constant fixtures are detrimental to players health, the stress and tiredness it causes hinders our national team in summer competitions.

And there are plenty more and they are all good arguments. They are however all poppycock!

Players haven’t yet mad their opinions crystal clear although there have been plenty of sound bites that indicate should they be asked they would vote for a break. Kyle Walker of Tottenham tweeted yesterday about having a rest on the sofa as “games come thick and fast”. Rio Ferdinand talked about being “in the midst of a tough schedule”. And that is just the British players. One can only imagine what some of the foreign imports to our league make of it all.

And there is also no denying that it will take it’s toll mentally and physically. However as for saying it hinders the national team then I can’t agree there. Last season Cristiano Ronaldo played as many games if not more than any Englishman. Same goes for Messi and the Germans. And that is a statistic that has been borne out over the last few years.

Players probably play roughly the same number of games as previously as well. Or certainly not a lot less and while yes the game is quicker these days, the pitches, boots, balls and strips are all of a better and lighter quality too so there is a balance of sorts.

International players probably play as much as before also. While there are more international games and friendlies these days, there is no home championship and a lot of the players from the big clubs tend not to play in all the friendlies anyway. Again there is a balance.

Cup competitions see roughly same number of fixtures as in days gone by. Maybe slightly more in European games, but nationally there’s actually less and as a lot of the ‘top’ players don’t play in all rounds of the cup, in some instances a lot less.

But the point amount Christmas fixtures is there not about players, clubs, governing bodies or even the almighty dollar provided by TV. They are and always have been about the fans.

Fans follow their team week in, week out, up and down the country. Sometimes having to leave at ridiculous times or arriving back at an equally outrageous hour. All this is done while juggling working lives and family commitments. And all for an extortionate price.

At Christmas the majority of people have time off, time to spend with family and not worry about work or other such worries. Also have time to go to football, sometimes with children, who can’t make it on other occasions. Even if you don’t go to a game, you’re more likely to go to a pub and watch it there rather than stay in the house because you’ve got work in the morning.

To deprive fans of this would be yet another slap in the face and would rubbish the comment that without fans the game will be nothing. Don’t be surprised though if this debate gets an official airing at some point in the future!

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