World Cup 2002 - African qualification



World Cup 2002 - African qualification
Club vs. Country - not only the players problem
Several African players at Europe are runing into problems this half year (Janury-June 2001) because of the huge number of African qualifiers for Nations Cup and World Cup which all take place on weekends. So they are wanted for the same match dates by their club and their country. And are under a lot of pressure from both sides:
Here a moral commitment to play for their country. And a national team coach who wants them badly for preperations, too, because he knows, otherwise he will beblamed after a costly loss.
There a miserable situation at their clubs: the coaches of the clubs see their team weakened, they can not make thorough preperations,too, because sometimes the player is there, sometimes he is absend. 
Especially now: the qualifiers take place in a rhythm which is extremely damaging for building a team unit: a player flies this way in the week before the Nations Cup match, then flies that way, often with some small injury and tired of travelling, then he is available for club training a few days before he parts again for the World Cup qualifier, taking place a fortnight after the Nations Cup qualifier. 
So club coaches start to try to mend their sides in giving contracts to possible substitutes. But if those substitutes do well they will be also an alternative to the player when he is with the club again. This even puts more pressure upon the players and Radebe (South Africa) and Bakayoko (Côte d'Ivoire) are only two prominent names which are joined by a lot of less known examples.

A nice twist in this epic is the problems that some players from the Southern African area have with releases from their clubs in the South African league. When the CAN Lesotho-Zimbabwe encounter threatened to clash with a league match of relegation threatened Celtic, the Celtic coach reacted in a way which would have led to an outcry if performed by an European club: 'it is us who pay their salary, they [some players of Lesotho] would not have been allowed to play for their country'. Lesotho moved the match and so avoided the clash this time.

To turn entirely to midweek matches seem a solution but probably isn't. First of all many players play even more important European international club matches on Tuesdays/Wednesday and second of all the protection period of five days preperation then would interfere with the weekend before. And many countries would have to play on dull midweek afternoon or night matches in front of smaller crowds.  A pitiful scenario for the biggest African games.

A much better solution had been an organisation of matches into blocks of two or three matches in succession (f.e. Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday) rather than the fortnight rhythm now. This would spare players a lot of travelling and spare both, clubs and National teams preperation time. The teams could reach a better level.

But again the problem is in the practical details: travelling problems and different climatical situations would mount some logiostical problems for schedule makers and teams.
But the targeted FIFA calender should go in such a direction.

A sidelook to Gaelic sports (f.e. Hurling): here the regional selections play their championships after the club championships in an entirely seperated block.


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