The Sweeper: Arsène Wenger’s Crusade Against International Football

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Arsène Wenger

In what would be yet a huge step forward in the further commodification of football, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is planning to sue the Dutch Football Confederation (KNVB) for compensation related to injuries sustained to Holland and Arsenal forward Robin van Persie during a Holland/Italy friendly last month.  He told reporters yesterday that he “expect[s] financial compensation for the damage [injuries] can make to the championship and the salary involved. It is especially frustrating to lose your players for the rest of the season in a friendly game. The question has to be raised.”

While the KNVB made a hash of van Persie’s injury, with Serbian doctors and animal placentas veiling the fact the striker’s ankle ligaments were more damaged than initially diagnosed by the Dutch national team physician, Wenger’s move could set a precedent that would forever alter the nature of international football, with mid-season friendlies banned and international sides wary of picking the best players available for fear of having to make huge payouts to clubs.

Wenger made his views on international football very clear:

“I am not against the national teams. But at the moment we sit here and they can do what they want.  The players are paid by their clubs and get injured playing for another team. I am happy if England wins, but if we lose because England wins nobody cares about me. There is something completely wrong with the system. I want the power to be rebalanced more in favour of the clubs.”

The implication is that larger national federations like Holland, France, England and Italy make a great deal of money from expensive “goods” supplied at no cost by clubs, and should therefore be liable if those goods are returned “damaged.”  In any case, the move reveals that for Wenger championships are measured in lost revenue, and players are million dollar machines not to be lent out for something as ethereal as national pride.  Few club investors would disagree.

While no one would argue that UEFA, FIFA, or the big football federations (Wenger acknowledged in the case of Adebayor at Togo that not all federations will be able to compensate clubs for lost wages) don’t make a great deal of money from international football, the money earned from England friendlies for example doesn’t all go into the wallets of FA fat cats. Money from international football helps sustain both league and non-league football, funding football grassroots projects and facilities (Clairefontaine anyone?) that, in addition to club academies, help generate the sort of players that made Arsenal so much money over the past decade and a half.

Penalizing international sides for calling up their homegrown talent for friendlies or qualifiers would further diminish the ability of federations and associations to raise money for soccer education and development at the local level, which provides the enormous palate from which the club academy system draws upon for its best young talent.  International football might have the balance of power in Wenger’s eyes, but it could become a meaningless sideshow should the Arsenal manager get his way.

International Stories

  • It appears a Canada-Macedonia friendly played last month may have been fixed. The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and Macedonian federation are adamant the allegations surround the referee and not any players on the Canadian or Macedonian sides.  Some big question marks still hang over this story though…
  • Some goal porn for proud USMNT supporters via Steve Goff:  highlights and Michael Bradley’s winner for Moechengladbach on the weekend.  Enjoy.
  • Top seeded Akron will play second seed Virginia for the NCAA soccer crown today at 1 pm EST after Akron beat North Carolina on penalties on Friday night.

When not breaking into foreign recording studios, Richard Whittall writes A More Splendid Life.

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