Club Vs. Country

Club Vs. Country

Club Vs. Country is an age old question. Where does a player’s loyalty lie? Is it with the team that pays him or with the country he was born into?

Is it with the one he plays countless matches for day in day out, or is it with his fellow countrymen who he gets to play with for a dozen games or so a year, if that.

This question has been pondered by many a soccer player for years and years. What happens if a player gets hurt while playing for his National team? Who picks up the expense on that?

A player just signs a $100 million contract and he gets hurt playing a friendly for his country. His career is over. Money lost. Life as it used to be, gone. What happens? The team goes on without him. But the question remains, should the player ever been put in the position to risk injury for a team that does not pay him. What happens to his true employer? Well, he’s out of luck. Time to look for a replacement.

This is the threat for the hundreds of soccer players plying their trade throughout the world. From Italy and Serie A to La Liga in Spain to Major League Soccer in the USA, all the clubs put their most valuable assets at risk year in and year out.

An asset of value from every aspect in the book. Ticket sales, franchise value, merchandising, stadium concessions, employees from top to bottom of a company are put at risk constantly. Should they be forced too?

Arguments could be made for country as well. The country has allowed you the opportunity to play at a top level. Be it through youth system, government benefits, and many other ways a player should be thankful, to the country for rearing him.

On the other hand the players playing for their flag give their country a certain value in the world. If you do better in a major tournament, it increases the value of your country as a while in the eyes of the world.

Yes, the players get compensated for this, either through bonuses or other endorsements through private companies, but don’t be fooled, the country they represent sure benefits form the players on their National sides.

Other major sports risk the same as soccer. Be it basketball with the World Championships in Turkey coming up to this past year’s Olympic hockey tournament. Any time a player goes down, his club’s general manager, coach etc.,.. have to hold their breath.

I was just at three straight nights of double header basketball in Tel Aviv at an exhibition tournament featuring, Israel, Belgium, Holland and Great Britain.

Three nights of back to back games with players representing their country who also play either in their domestic countries or other leagues around the world.

Each team played 3 games, each against the other clubs in the country, with the winner taking home a trophy before heading off for Eurobasket 2011 qualifiers next week.

Israel happened to win the tournament going 3-0, playing the final game against Belgium without Omri Casspi, of the Sacremento Kings. Coach Arik Sivik gave him the night off after a terrific match against England the night before, where he went one on one near the end of the game with former NBA player Pops Mensah Bonsu.

However, Luol Deng who plays for England and the Chicago Bulls of the NBA, did not suit up for any of his team’s three matches.

Great Britain coach Chris Finch was asked why and he replied that due to contractual issues Deng would only be allowed to play in the actual qualifiers. On one hand, unfortunate, on the other the correct decision.

How would it had looked if Deng gets banged up in 3 meaningless games. Sure they were fun to watch and the games featured some terrific basketball especially the Israel vs. Great Britain game, but if he gets hurt, ov va voy! A disaster.

Should he even play in the Eurobasket qualifiers? Well, I am sure the Bulls would prefer that he did not, however, Luol Deng will play for his flag and maybe that is where we actually see the true sides of a player.

Not just a player that plays for the millions of dollars, but one who will put himself and risk himself for his country. Obviously this is not war and one is not risking his life, but he is still putting his career at risk and that he and all the other players should be commended for.

Club Vs. Country is definitely a question that will be pondered for the years to come and maybe we could fill a volume of the Talmud with the pros and cons, but I think there will never be a most correct answer.

What do you think?

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

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