There used to be a time when being called up for international duty was a great privilege, an honour. No matter if it was a friendly, qualifiers, anything, a player craved to represent his country.
Seeing that passion instills a type of confidence and pride that affects not only their teammates, but reaches out to the fans. However, with egos, wages, the actions of fans and managers, everything has changed.
It has gotten to the point where some players have more respect for their club than they do their country. Why shouldn't they? They are paid ridiculous amounts of money to play for their club, but only a few grand for their country.
One reason. Pride.
If there is one thing I notice when I watch more and more international play, it is that pride, in oneself, in one's team, in the country, helps a team more than having 11 superstars on the field.
If superstars mattered as much as pride, England wouldn't have lost to Croatia in EURO 2008 qualifying while sporting a side with undeniably great footballers (Gerrard, J.Cole, A.Cole, Lampard, Defoe, Beckham, and the list goes on). Croatia, on the other hand, had only one well-known name on its roster, Eduardo. Luka Modric was just beginning to shine, but that team was full of unknowns.
Pride shows. How could one not notice it after EURO 2008? There are teams that always seem to have tremendous national pride, no matter the quality of football.
Spain, Germany, Russia, Turkey. These four put country dearest to them, look how it turned out for them. If anyone said they saw Turkey being in the last four, they are lying (or Turkish football fans). It was sheer determination and fight, a fight that brought them into the light as a team to be reckoned with.
With international friendlies taking place this week, players will leave their clubs for a few days and show some national pride. After years of watching players not wanting to risk injury for a simple friendly, its nice to look at them fighting their club managers to let them go for international duty. To all of you die-hard international footballers, I thank you. Football thanks you.