I’ve always been critical of international football. I’ve found it to lack the excitement that club football provides us on a weekly basis throughout the calendar year. The fans are duller, the rivalries are lacking and the standard of play is just inferior to what we’re used to on a weekly basis during a season.
Yet, in recent times with Euro 2012 reaching its final stages, even though my obvious love for club football remains, international football has become a somewhat welcome distraction and change from what we've become used to with club football. Particularly in recent years. Strange as it may sound, this new found respect I’ve come to have for international football is born out of the purity of it. Club football is far more entertaining, attractive and attaching, but international football has now become far more pure. That's right.
It’s pure in the sense that money has not (yet) taken such a massive importance as it has in club football. You still don’t have sponsors on international kits (with the exception of Ireland, I think). Players numbers still feature on the front side of their jersey alongside the country’s emblem - which still contain the words “football” or something related to the football federation, unlike many of today’s clubs who have opted to remove the words “football” and “club” in order to brand the club more appropriately for its fans and sponsors.
Money has not yet crept in to international football. It probably will at some point in the future, but at the moment it does not have the importance in international football as it does in club football. Sure, players from other countries are being nationalized and representing countries foreign to those of their birth certificates, but is that a way of cheating? Nope.The prime example always used is regarding the French national team. But is that wrong? People who have lived in France their whole lives, but are originally from other countries are just as French as those who have had their ancestors there for centuries. They pay the same taxes, live under the same laws and have the same rights as one another. They are French. So that argument can go out the window.
When it comes to selecting players, you are guaranteed (unless your name is Roy Hodgson) that the best players in the country are being chosen. The players are playing for national pride. They aren’t paid as handsomely as with their clubs. The average fan understands now that club players these days aren’t necessarily playing for teams out of love, passion or anything romantic/patriotic. Their motives can go from being money-driven to location-driven or are simply petulance-related. With International football, they have no choice. They can’t decide to choose to play for a “better” country.
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer club football by quite some distance, and I’m well aware that competitions such as the Champions League is far better viewing for all of us - but we have come to accept that almost every season the majority of clubs that have spent the most amount of cash are the ones who’ll be challenging for the major honors. That doesn't happen with international football. It still has a raw feel to it. As opposed to club football, international football has not yet become a fully-blown business, and for all its flaws, I’m learning to embrace it.