International breaks are feared.
Not without cause, either. The modern fan is so spoilt by European club football that it’s only natural that they should sulk whenever their domestic fixture lists are taken away. International periods, generally speaking at least, represent vast oceans of nothing during which our heads are forcefully turned towards whichever precessional game England are due to play.
That’s not typical English arrogance; UEFA’s qualifying groups are often laughably top-heavy and it can be very difficult to sustain an interest in something to which you already know the outcome.
So it’s a double-threat: away goes Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League and in their place arrives England against San Marino which, really, is like watching a teenager play his mother at FIFA.
Clearly, it’s a tough sell.
But, beyond ITV’s shoddy variation on Bittersweet Symphony, the mumbled national anthems and the feigned interest in a record that Wayne Rooney really doesn’t deserve to break, international periods really have a merciful quality.
True, a lot of the games aren’t that competitive, but Michel Platini’s Week of Football initiative allows viewers the chance to take a more circumspect view of the global game - and that’s actually a good thing. As well as providing an opportunity to watch a different set of players competing within a different range of stadia, international football exposes us to a fresh set of sub-plots which, whether we know it or not, are probably good for us.
That variation is important.
English domestic football exists in a haze of discussion which is very tiresome. The finer detail may change over the course of the season, but between August and May the range of debated topics is painfully narrow: what did this manager say about that one? What is this player’s best position? Is that thing that we’re all outraged about really that outrageous?
And so on and so forth.
It’s all very peripheral and soap-opera-like. Eight months of Jose Mourinho’s contrived excuse-making and the collective fascination with Louis Van Gaal’s changing expression makes quite an emotional demand on supporters and, now more than ever, they have to possess quite durable personalities just to survive the season.
International football, therefore, is like a cool breeze. It shares some elements with its domestic equivalent and Hell hath no fury like Fleet Street after an England loss, but the mass indifference is actually rather refreshing.
Equally, because a lot of supporters - the loud, social media-dwelling type at least - can’t seem digest football without the accompanying froth, the more dislikeable elements of the community tune out of the game for ten days and, like brattish children being sent to their aunt’s house in the country, that’s not entirely unpleasant.
It’s still largely dull and international football still leaves holes in a schedule that most of us hold dear, but approach it with less suspicion and it actually offers a degree of emotional shelter.
It’s calmer and far less angry.
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