World Cup-qualifying tie with Panama marks the official end of the “freeness”
for coach Ian Porterfield.
I mean the relatively trouble-free access that he had to his top players
over the past two months – devoid of any hassle from European-based
clubs. The term “official end” is used because the end actually started
about two weeks ago.
when the football season in western Europe got underway, bringing promises
of renewed excitement for football fans around the world: and also renewed
headaches for local football officials and European club coaches alike.
Already, there has been one casualty of sorts: Anthony Rougier, who
was transferred to English Second Division club, Reading, upon request;
following an irreparable rift between himself and Port Vale manager
Brian Horton. There had been problems aplenty during last season, with
the Port Vale management growing upset at Rougier’s absences through
national duty. The imbroglio flared up again last week with Horton making
a plea to Rougier to skip the Panama game. Rougier would not bend and
asked to be transfer-listed: within five days, he was playing for Reading
against Millwall in the 2000-01 season opener.
is hoped that there will be no more bitter endings, it is likely that
similar circumstances are likely to crop up after this week. Manchester
United, seeking a seventh Premiership title in nine years, plus another
UEFA Champions’ League crown, are not going to fully relish the prospect
of star striker Dwight Yorke spending the first half of this season
(and possibly the whole of next year) pursuing a World Cup-place with
Trinidad and Tobago. Such reservations are likely to be equalled at
Hibernian (Russell Latapy, Lyndon Andrews), Raith Rovers (Marvin Andrews)
and Chester City (Angus Eve).
to which resentment of third-world players leaving to represent their
countries in international competition has risen, can be summed up in
the case of VfL Wolfsburg’s Jonathan Akpoborie. The German club flatly
refused to release the Nigerian to play for his country in the Olympic
Games in Sydney, citing the fact that he missed the first week of training
because of international duty, returning in “very poor physical condition.”
Wolfsburg coach, Wolfgang Wolf said, “I know how important it is for
Johnny to play for his country but I think it would be better if he
ended his international career.”
out before, it seems that such actions are rooted in a Euro-centric
view that denies a label of importance being attached to competitions
such as the Asian Cup and the Gold Cup. However, it now seems that certain
clubs, which are unable to come to terms with the fact that there are
players on their rosters who are obligated to play for their countries
when the time arises, are now dismissing the African Nations’ Cup, Olympic
Games and even the World Cup. These teams are now pressuring their players
to stay: rather than having to face the prospect of losing these individuals
at what are deemed to be inopportune times, especially if that person
should pick up an injury while representing his country.
seem that such risks are merely part and parcel of the game, and that
the clubs should not spend so much time obsessing over such things.
After all, the clubs have never made a sound about their European players
representing their countries? Which brings us back to the point that
there is a lesser level of regard given to the interests of non-European
players. FIFA have tried to appease the clubs over the years, with the
latest effort being the campaign to unify the international football
calendar. One of the proposals is that all national team games around
the world – be they friendlies or competitive games – be staged at the
same time, during a certain period. That way, all the designated players,
both European and non-European will leave and return together and there
will be less of a chance of coaches tearing their hair out.
is a long way off and, for now, the clubs versus country saga is set
to continue through this new season and there are sure to be a series
of rumblings over the next eight months or so. This is the situation
that both coach Porterfield and the TTFF are going to be facing after
this week. Let’s hope that they have trained properly for the hard battle
that lies ahead.