As a fan of a club team, these International Breaks can be infuriating. Players travel, sometimes halfway around the world, then they play in games that are often considered “pointless,” increasing exhaustion and risking injury. And yet players wait with great anticipation for the chance to represent their country (or in some cases, their adopted country.) For fans, it’s often hard to see the value, but for players, there is nothing greater than the chance to represent.

Balotelli, ironically injured this International Break, takes the most pride in playing for Italy

There is a long and heated battle between FIFA and club teams. This week, for example, players played on Sunday, and will play again as early as Saturday for their club teams, while playing a national team friendly on Wednesday. The timing is poor, too, as this is the point in the season where fitness becomes very important and injuries are piling up. And some players are still playing midweek competitions, too, such as the Champions League. That’s a lot of games and a lot of travel in such a short space of time. The calendar doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it is the players’ well-being that is most risked here.

Every four years, there is also the World Cup. So many players will be playing through July, only to return to club duty 2-3 weeks later. For European players, there is also the Euros every two years, and similarly, most confederations also have a tournament every two years or even every year. So it is hard to justify a random friendly at this point in the season, knowing what is ahead for so many of these players.

Muntari and Essien have both represented the Black Stars 

But for so many players, there is an immense amount of pride and satisfaction playing for their national team. There are so few bandiere left, or players who only play for one club. So clubs will come and go, and thus loyalties. But the loyalty to their national team stays throughout their career. The opportunity to wear their countries’ colors, the crest, and to hear their national anthem played ahead of a match conjures an unsurpassed emotional response. Nothing is better than representing.

Maybe someday FIFA will be more attentive to the needs of the players and the calendar will reflect this. Hopefully it doesn’t take a tragedy to make this happen. But until then, fans of club teams will sit on pins and needless just hoping their favorite players don’t pick up any injuries while representing their country. And many fans have similar passion and pride involved with their own national team, or maybe an adopted one, so it becomes difficult not to become emotionally involved with a friendly or other match while still being concerned for your players.

Honda is a national hero in Japan

This week, Milan players called up for national team duty include:

Colombia: Zapata
Colombia vs. Tunisia, played in Barcelona

Ghana: Essien, Muntari
Montenegro vs. Ghana, played in Podgorica

Guinea: Constant
Iran vs. Guinea, played in Tehran

Italy: Abate, De Sciglio, Montolivo
Spain vs. Italy, played in Madrid

Japan: Honda
Japan vs. New Zealand, played in Tokyo

Morocco: Taarabt
Morocco vs. Gabon, played in Marrakech

Slovenia: Birsa
Algeria vs. Slovenia, played in Blida

Birsa is Slovenia's number 10, so much passion for his country

While I am thrilled that 10 of our players will get to represent their colors and their country, with a season like Milan has had, I am hoping that they all come back in good shape, too. Honda has the furthest to travel, so I would expect him not to make it for Saturday’s game. But hopefully, everyone will be fit in time to go to Madrid next Tuesday. My head says that I should be worried, but my heart is proud that they are representing.

This post inspired by the music of Fratelli d’Italia

Our next match is
Udinese vs. Milan
Saturday, March 8 * 18:00 CET (12noon EST)

Representing Representing Reviewed by Elaine on 6:05 AM Rating: 5
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