The longest running debate in football continues this weekend, not only amongst all football players, coaches and managers but amongst all football fans up and down the UK and no doubt across the world.
Club versus Country – where are the loyalties of a footballer and of a football fan?
A professional footballer earns his salary by training and playing matches for his club, he is also contracted and paid to do numerous PR campaigns, appear for television interviews and above all be a sterling ambassador for that club in which he is employed by.
Like any job, you want to earn as much money as possible and do your job to the best of your ability. In comparison, he does not receive a salary for appearing for his country; however it seems that to play for your country is suppose to be the peak of a footballers career and something that footballer should do with pride… I beg to differ.
As a Manchester United fan I have seen our players be the subject of vicious and hurtful attacks through the years – whether it is the likes of abuse from fans or excessive and extremely critical media coverage, all relating back to incidents in international matches.
We all know that in this country, our media will do anything expose a national hero as a Jeremy Kyle type ‘dreg of society’ – anything goes from entrapment and the worst case of undercover reporting to phone tapping and looking at personal texts (and photos messages in white pants) – I always took the view that the national press in this country only build a man up to knock him down, and this is something I still stand by.
I fell out of love with England after the ’98 World Cup when I read the headline ’10 heroic lions and one stupid boy’. Our national treasure David Beckham had to take full responsibility for England’s departure from the tournament. No blame was placed on Hoddle for tinkering with is formation, Batty for missing a decisive penalty, or even Diego Simeone for antagonising Beckham into kicking out which lead to his red card – no, it was all a massive scapegoat campaign and Becks was at the brunt of it.
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A few years later, Phil Neville again was made a scapegoat for giving away a last minute penalty to Romania in the European Championships – this type of victimisation baffled me further as England were dismal in this tournament and did not even deserve their only victory which came at the expense of Germany – surely the manager should have taken the blame? Or those who surrendered a 2-0 lead in our 3-2 defeat to Portugal?
Finally – and the final nail in my International coffin was the Ronaldo/Rooney incident. For those who do not remember, Rooney stamped on Carvalho, Ronaldo made a scene to the referee, Rooney got sent off, England carry on with 10 men and ultimately exit the tournament.
Bad day all around but the positive was that for the first in my life the English media did not victimise the England player for our exit – Brilliant, maybe they have finally decided to back our boys instead of killing them with headlines.
Error, what the media did in fact do was blame Ronaldo. Why? Because he was playing in England at the time. This meant similar volumes of newspapers were still sold, similar abuse could be given but it was all ten fold. Ten times worse coverage, ten times worse fan abuse, ten times longer to forget and ultimately making Cristiano Ronaldo the most hated player the English game has ever seen.
During World Cup 2010 I overheard a group of fans wholeheartedly expressing how much they would rather see England lift a World Cup in their life time than witness their respective clubs win a trophy; for me, I simply do not agree with that.
I am a Manchester United fan, MUFC is my club, my pride, my life – I choose Manchester United over England every time. This does not make me less passionate than any other England fan, it just makes me realistic.
Why would I carry on supporting our national team knowing at the end of a game or a tournament, a player from my club, English or not, will be the subject of vile and unacceptable abuse for the next 12 months?
Why would I carry on supporting our national team knowing it is being captained by a footballer that has zero respect amongst 99% the English public?
My conclusion to the debate in this club versus country topic is although footballers have a sense of pride when appearing for their country, they know where their bread is buttered thus ensuring club comes firmly before country. If you do not believe me, just look at the amount of games our so called passionate English men pull out of just in case it jeopardizes their club form.
With regards to fans – there are plenty of people who back the country until the end of time, but not me. Club comes before country.