An immediate distrust engulfs when someone informs me that they prefer international football to club football, or that they would rather their country win a major trophy than their club team. This is akin to not liking football at all, without the obvious, half-alive feeling of nothingness. The two are just vastly different. Your club is an outward symbol of your identity, a feeling of passion and belonging. Your country is where your Mother’s waters broke.
My club team has just been relegated to the third tier of English football. From next season onwards, international football will no longer bother the structure of our league season, as third tier teams, bereft of international players, simply carry on with the proper football. Idle weekends cannot be comprehended, for there is the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to play during the week. From August to May, club football should rule, but when the season is stopped to satisfy the qualifying match or the friendly, a wild sense of exasperation clings to me like an unwanted scar.
Every two years though, something changes. That infuriating puppy has blossomed into a beautiful companion, satisfying a footballing desire. Away from real football, it stands alone. The poetic, long days add to the mystique, creating a sharp contrast to the depths of winter seeing your team lose to Peterborough.
International football would be best suited if it was permamnently shifted to the summer. Most football nations in play winter leagues, so that the calendar is already bare, but those leagues who play in the summer often stop for international football anyway. I know that Uefa is one derided cog in a incomprehensible machine, but it does hold a great deal of power.
Therefore, why not play all the qualifying games for the following year’s tournament in one summer? With five weekends being saved during the season, most major leagues would finish in mid-April rather than mid-May. Whilst I can never foresee this coming to fruition, it would ensure that proper, club football is safeguarded as the pinnacle of the sport, and that international football is forever banished to the summer, where it truly belongs.
Practicality wise, it may be difficult to implement. Ten games in seven weeks (end the qualifying tournament in the first weekend of June) is more than feasible, but not when you take into account flying across the continent. Kazakhstan and Iceland may be at an even greater disadvantage due to travel rather than their playing squads. With practical planning though, international football could remain a summer sport.