Every year, during the first week of September, comes an international ‘break’: World Cup qualifiers, Euro qualifiers, or international friendlies take centre stage. While getting an international call-up means a great deal for participating players, it can cause for a bit of annoyance for the fans. I write this article not to moan and complain about an inevitable fixture; but to analyze whether frequent international breaks are needed at all.
Currently, international teams are on their way to compete for a birth in the 2018 World Cup Finals. Throughout these qualifying stages, countries are forced to harness a competitive mindset for a tournament that will happen years away. Despite its importance, it’s difficult to get excited for something that is set sometime in the future.
Whether your country always qualifies, never qualifies, or is in contention to qualify really doesn’t matter. The first week of September is too early to break from club football. Just 3 weeks into the Premier League and any momentum generated is put on hold so that countries can play matches that don’t matter (friendlies) or matter for a tourney that is years away (qualifiers). Same goes for the Bundesliga (1 week in), La Liga (2 weeks in), and Seria A (2 weeks in). The excitement that club football is back and underway is disrupted by matches that are felt with indifference to most.
While it can be an exciting time for the thousands of fans who support countries that are on the fringe of qualifying, I would assume that these matches are less so for most. There doesn’t seem to be any alternative to get rid of these international breaks since qualifying stages must be played. However, the only change I would make is to push the set of international matches further back. Dear FIFA, please let the clubs play more than a handful of matches before disrupting the league’s momentum. The first week of September is always tough.