England’s 6-0 win over hapless Bulgaria on Monday was marred by repeated racist abuse and chanting. It was as predictable as it was shameful, as expected as the denials that followed from the home side. The game probably should’ve been canceled, even by UEFA’s own barebones rules, but all 90 minutes were played despite the referee twice stopping the game in the first half. Then again, why punish the clearly superior England team for the abhorrent behavior of the locals? (Or, for that matter, punish the poor Bulgarian players for the abhorrent behavior of their “fans”?)
Tyrone Mings (on his debut!) and Raheem Sterling and others spoke eloquently about the situation afterwards. Their words are powerful, meaningful, and in an ideal world, would affect real change. Meanwhile, the home organizers and even the home side’s head coach were denying everything. Their words are scary, inciteful, and in our [FUN]ed up world, serve as the harsh reality of a certain segment of society that extends well beyond the boundaries of a football match in Sofia.
Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov has been pleading with the home fans at half-time to stop the racist chanting. pic.twitter.com/bH77WOzKnY— SPORTbible (@sportbible) October 14, 2019
There’s no easy solution, at least not an easily enforceable one. Bulgaria may get slapped with a fine or a stadium closure. And then the cycle begins anew. One actual solution is obvious, but probably not fit for public consumption.
At the same time, there is one easy change that can be made. One less platform for the dregs of humanity to make their voices heard. It won’t solve the whole problem. These issues exist everywhere, in all places, close to home and far away as well. There’s a long way to go — including at our very own Chelsea. But we can take one step towards a better future.
Cancel international football.
And yes, I know that it's a cultural/societal issue, but if football/soccer ever wants to live up to its own ideals about being the beautiful game, which celebrates its diversity and connective power, it has to create a space where bigotry is not tolerated. It has to be stern.— Zito (@_Zeets) October 14, 2019
It’s not a new idea. International football was already the worst. It’s one of the core principles of WAGNH.
The benefits are numerous, societal as well as sporting. Here are just a few.
No more low quality international football. Players who rarely play together, instructed by coaches who barely have more than a few days’ access to them. By definition, that will not result in anything more than a basic version of a game that’s played at an ever more specialized level in club football. The only reason it’s better than Sunday League or Rec League is because of the individual skills of the players involved.
No more meaningless international football. The World Cup and other such tournaments have become so bloated anyway, the idea of qualifiers is a massive joke, let alone wasting time with “friendlies”. Football doesn’t need a World Cup to stay relevant. The game doesn’t need international tournaments to “grow” in whatever region of the world, and it certainly doesn’t need the corruption those things engender thanks to FIFA’s and other governing organizations’ incompetence. The game doesn’t need England winning 6-0 in Bulgaria or Belgium beating San Marino 9-0, and certainly not in “qualifying” games.
No more international interruptions. Starting in September, for every three weeks of club football, we get two weeks of international football. Top flight teams, the teams who actually employ and pay the players, cram upwards of 6-7 games into those three weeks, then the twiddle their thumbs for the other two and hope for no bad news. Given all the concerns about fatigue and fixture congestion, here would be six extra weeks to use just in the first-half of the season!
No more international break injuries. Especially topical for Chelsea right now, but always true in general. Injuries are a part of the game of course, but this would be one less major source of them.
And sure, the “lads” could no longer go “on tour” with England, or whatever. That’s also not a big loss, or a loss at all in fact. Imagine football leading the way in eschewing the concept and ideals of nationalism and xenophobia, and instead maybe advocating for being responsible global citizens and, first and foremost, just non-abhorrent human beings. That may be too utopian, but the world seems to be trending in the opposite direction at the moment and there’s only one WeRateDogs.
FA chairman Greg Clarke on ITV: "To be perfectly frank we need to address racism in England. We still have it. We have it throughout the pyramid. We see examples of it every week from the professional game down to the grassroots. We shouldn't take the moral high ground...— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) October 14, 2019
What is the point of international football? The Premier League has shown that what people want is high quality football played by the best players. Local has become global. It can still be local, too, of course, but that’s no longer the defining quality. The audience and the attachments are worldwide, and not defined by ethnic, racial, linguistic, or geopolitical boundaries. The only entity that actually needs a World Cup is FIFA.
Deleting international football will not solve society’s ills. But it’s a step forward, with additional benefits.