Anorak News | International Tired Young Things

International Tired Young Things

by | 20th, October 2005

‘PICTURE the scene – the latest over-hyped 16-year-old footballing whiz-kid, having just signed on the dotted line for one of Europe’s big guns, drops a bombshell at the press conference – “I’d like to announce my retirement from the international game although I haven’t actually played any matches for my country yet. Still, I feel I need to focus all my energy on my club football and also I need to spend more time with my Xbox.”

Just because you don’t know the words

Maybe it all seems a little far-fetched at the moment, yet nowadays professional footballers seem to be eschewing their national teams at a younger and younger age.

Only recently the Irish triumvirate of Keane, Cunningham and Carr decided to call it a day on the back of another disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign for the Republic. While both Roy Keane and Kenny Cunningham are well into their footballing twilight years and entitled to enjoy a more leisurely end to their careers, the impish Dubliner Stephen Carr’s decision seems rather less understandable.

Carr claimed: “It’s time to stand aside and let some of the younger lads coming through to have the opportunity to play for Ireland”. But he’s only 29, hardly ready for the knacker’s yard. Yet the miniscule Newcastle star now joins the growing list of superstars, including Paul Scholes, Alan Shearer and Zinedine Zidane (recently back in the French fold after some pleading by a desperate French FA) who decided to duck out of all those downright inconvenient international fixtures.

There is no doubt that the extra travelling and training camps involved in international football eat into the over-worked millionaire playboy footballers’ valuable time, but considering that these sporting superstars have more free-time than 99% of the working population in order to spend time with their kids, wives, mistresses, roasting partners, hookers, or drugs counsellors, it seems a somewhat unconvincing reason for hanging up your international boots.

What is even more galling is the retired footballer who decides, ‘heroically’, to come out of retirement to come to the rescue of his national team just when they are on the cusp of qualifying for a major tournament. The Czech Republic’s Pavel Nedved is the latest self-proclaimed knight-in-shining-armour to ponder dusting off his international boots for the cause of his country as they prepare for a World Cup play-off with Norway.

No doubt the possibility of potentially gracing another major tournament and thus adding a few zeros on the end of your boot deal is a lot more attractive than playing tedious qualifying games in Armenia.

Stephen Carr’s decision to focus on his club career is sure to have brought a warm glow to Newcastle boss Graeme Souness. Indeed the words ‘international retirement’ are music to the ears of every club manager, desperate to keep their charges away from the ravages of international duty.

Sadly, it now seems that the amoral cash-happy world of club football has forgotten that playing for your country is, or should be, just that – a duty.

So why not force those idle millionaires to give something back to their places of birth and make representing your country a form of national service? If you make the grade as a top football player, able to wallow in your neo-Georgian mansions and rub fake tan into your C-list celebrity girlfriends, then you must, by law, play for your country until your country’s FA says otherwise.

And for those players who really really don’t want to play, they can always choose a second option – join the Army.

Surely the likes of Paul Scholes would rather don the three lions again than dodge bullets in downtown Kandahar…

Alan Duffy’

Posted: 20th, October 2005 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink