I probably should’ve written this piece on Friday as we headed into the weekend but on Friday afternoon life is good and all you’re thinking about is the great (hopefully) blank canvas that Saturday and Sunday can be after a long work week. But, since I operate as much as possible on auto pilot, the sports problems of this weekend weren’t as apparent on Friday as they are today (don’t tell anyone, but I was more focused on College Football).
The problem was, as I can see more clearly now, there was no soccer. Sure there were a few Euro2016 qualifiers but they were buried in the quicksand of FOX Sports Plus and BeInSports. And who the hell wanted to watch those anyway? No one. The rest of the matches were “friendlies” that amounted to nothing more than glorified scrimmages taking place thousands of miles from home so that organizers could squeeze out a few extra thousand dollars from soccer fans.
Let me back up in case you’re not understanding what’s going on here. This weekend was what is known in the soccer world as an “international break”. Meaning, there were no league games this weekend, only some national team play here and there. One match featured Germany and Gibraltar. I bet you didn’t realize A) That Gibraltar was even a country or B) That they had a soccer team (though if A is true, B is almost always true). That was a match that “mattered”, in that it was a EURO qualifier, there were numerous exhibitions (like the USA playing Colombia, for no reason, in London England of all places). Other matchups included Bulgaria v Malta, Luxembourg v Ukraine, you get the picture. There was nothing worth watching.
The first international break occurs two weeks into the season. Could you imagine if the NFL took a weekend off the last week of September? How about the week before Thanksgiving? How about you tell me what a good weekend would be for the players on your favorite NFL team to get on a plane and fly for a few hours, to play in a game that is either completely meaningless or a qualifier for a tournament two years away against a team that you’re expected to walk all over. What weekend would be good for that? No weekend ever? Gotcha.
As a fan of Manchester City, I was on pins and needles over the Argentina v Croatia match. Not because I cared, at all, who won. But because Manchester City has three Argentinians on the team and I was nervous that they might pick up an injury. At least this game was played in London, unlike the last international break which saw Argentina flying to China for their useless matches. Would a Red Sox fan be okay with David Ortiz flying to China in the middle of the season to play an exhibition match versus Poland? Would a Knicks fan sign off on letting Carmelo Anthony fly to Cape Town for an exhibition match versus Indonesia? Of course not.
I understand that there is a need for qualifier matches to gain inclusion to big tournaments. But why not just do an international break at the end of October, at the end of March, and then use the whole month of July? The domestic season ends the last weekend of May so players can take all of June off, play for the whole month of July with their national teams, and then come into the season fresh off of competitive international matches and forgoing the traditional sharks versus minnows pre-season tours that so many teams adopt. And don’t say “money” because of course the answer is money.
Although this past weekend didn’t actually have any matches I still checked my fantasy soccer team just like I would any other Monday morning. I still checked the internet for transfer rumors. And I still looked around for signs of Manchester United’s impending doom (Daley Blind and David De Gea picking up injuries in meaningless matches was a good start). But it’s not enough, I want real matches. And now I have four more days to suffer through before we can resume our soccer lives. I can’t wait for Sepp Blatter to hit the start button and un-pause the soccer season.