Article: International football, should it change and lessons learned from England’s men’s 10-0 and women’s 20-0 thrashings
In the past few weeks, we have seen some astonishing results in international football that shouldn’t really be happening in the top professional game.
The men’s and women’s England team have both beaten countries 10-0 and 20-0, and it makes you think “what is the point of these teams on the other end playing “. Sure, there is the argument of ‘you can only beat what’s in front of you’ – but is it fair for these nations to even be competition in international football when they (harshly) stand no chance and countries like Monaco (officially a independent sovereign European country) are competing in the French Ligue 1.
In the short piece ahead, I look at some of the reasons why it is unfair for certain countries, for their own sake, to be competing in top flight international football – and if they should at all.
There is a very unknown boundary as to what defines a team too small to compete – but here are my arguments that I think could influence the drawing of certain teams in order to uphold some kind of professionalism.
In the article, I explore and link a bit about player quality, lack of player development/academies and inheritance of qualities from previous teams, with main points made regarding the lack of professional league systems in small countries
Footballers vs Part timers
The biggest and most obvious factor here is that some games are literally matches that see professional athletes take on part time workers.
Let’s take San Marino for example, the 201th ranked FIFA team making it officially the worst ranked team in the world. They have competed in every European, Nations League and World Cup qualifier since making their competitive debut in 1986 where they lost 1-0 to Canada U23s. Their ONLY win came against Liechtenstein in 2004, since then it has been draws and losses.
It’s a microstate with a population of 33000 who’s team has three pro players, a dentist, a production assistant and a second hand car dealer to name a few. To think that one man has to finish a shift filling cavities on £15 an hour only to go and spend 90 minutes facing the world’s best football players and athletes that earn a lifetime’s wage in a couple of weeks doesn’t seem right, does it?
On one side, you could suggest that this is inspiring for the population of these tiny countries seeing men and women from their home nations competing against the likes of Harry Kane and other players – and could influence them in becoming footballers themselves – but what is less inspiring than seeing the pros laughably destroy you to a double figure result.
Academies and becoming a footballer in lesser countries
With that previous point, there is the argument that these tiny countries competing against world giants puts them on the map and inspires the youth of those nations to become footballers.
Other than the fact that seeing a 10-0 score line is as demoralizing as anything, these countries simply don’t have the facilities or academies to produce or entertain the kids to a level that can see them develop into full time pros – preventing them from moving countries to pursue a dream.
Why? The countries are so small they don’t have the GDP or income to splash on a professional academy league system. San Marino’s has a GDP of $1.6 billion USD and Liechtenstein has a GDP of $6.8 billion USD – compared that to England’s $2.4 trillion and Germanys $3.8 trillion – there just isn’t enough money there to set aside for football.
Leagues and cups in small countries
Liechtenstein competes in the Nations League, European and World Cup qualifiers and DOES NOT have it’s own national football league system due to lack of active teams. Of the seven actual clubs in the Liechtenstein FA, only one is professional (FC Vaduz) and they all play in the Swiss league between the 1sth and 10th division.
Linking back to the academies – where do the players of these countries have to play when they are 18/19 and looking to turn professional? A move away is almost impossible when you have no opportunity to be scouted without a league system to play in, and this applies to all countries with no or very little league structure.
Unlike us in Wales where we have big names like Swansea and Cardiff just up the road, the players of these countries have no scouts to look out for because they don’t even have a professional league to even play in. For the nations that have leagues, they don’t tend to be professional – and a lot of them are simple semi-pro part time games, essentially stopping any real further individual development.
Looking at the San Marino Campionato Sammarinese di Calcio , it is the primary football league in San Marino and happens to be amateur. Compare that to us in Wales, where we can go from grassroots football to Championship football without leaving the country.
Without a professional league system, how can the players be trained to a high enough quality to compete in the Euros or World Cup, or pursue their own goals. By the time a teenagers school ends at 17/18 – the highest football division they can even reach for is an amateur league, or maybe semi-pro.
Liechtenstein currently sit 191st in the FIFA world rankings, and hold the record of being the only team to ever lose to San Marino. Would it make sense to make a sub-competition for these nations to compete – to even out the playing field and give them a chance at winning to spark a flame?
Inheritance from the past
England, Germany, Spain and France are rich with history with accomplishment and achievements that future players want to break. Individual players like Gareth Bale, born and raised in Wales and now the all time goal-scorer, are the biggest inspirations for football fans around the world. As a player, these goals are what drives you – and there’s a big thanks to past records.
For a player in San Marino – other than losing 10-0 – what can you learn from the past? What can drive you to become the best San Marino player ever when there’s no leagues to play in, no academies to develop in, no big players from the past or no top level coaches who used to play the sport at the highest level.
In the end, you can always say ‘what harm is it doing to anyone to let these teams compete’ – and on the surface – not really any harm to anyone. But when you think about it differently, it makes you compare how different football is for people of those countries compared to us.
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