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A Positive Spin on International Friendlies

MADRID SPAIN - JULY 11:  Spanish fans react during a public viewing of the Spain v Holland FIFA World Cup Final on July 11 2010 in Madrid Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
MADRID SPAIN - JULY 11: Spanish fans react during a public viewing of the Spain v Holland FIFA World Cup Final on July 11 2010 in Madrid Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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We're stuck in the middle of an international break yet again. So I was sitting here thinking about what to write and drawing blanks. There is almost nothing to actually write about. No scandals, no crazy FIFA ranking, no absurd Marca articles.

It's kind of depressing, actually.

Then I looked at the still unfortunately white Microsoft Word page and wondered if I could flip your thoughts on international friendlies.

To be honest, it's a tall task. As fans of club football, we hate the idea of having to flip the schedule and possibly subject our players to injury. And to be honest, it's kind of boring.

But does it really have to be?

Last week I was at a conference in Riyadh. There was a mixer the first evening, and to my great and happy surprise, there was a huge screen which had FIFA 12 projected onto it. I must have stood there and played for at least two hours with guys from everywhere you could imagine. Whether playing or watching, it was a great experience. And as we switched from clubs (where let me tell you Real Madrid won everything) to international teams, I saw something amazing; two guys, one from Germany and the other from Argentina (Riyadh houses a huge diplomatic quarter) playing a match using their respective national teams. Argentina ended up winning the match 3-1, which proves it was just a video game (sorry Argentina fans, I couldn't resist) but they took it so personally. Then we all left the game and sat around debating national teams for the next hour. And it wasn't even the World Cup!

The point is, there is no reason to wait for the international competitions to catch the fever. If it wasn't for that contagious World Cup fever I caught in Syria one year, I wouldn't be here.

Football is one of the most extraordinary things on Earth. Almost no other sport can boast the unity football has. It can unite people across continents and oceans. And I can almost guarantee that almost every single one of you had their passion for football boosted whenever the World Cup came knocking, because of the great football, the spectacular goals, and just the feeling of national pride it inspires.

We have to understand that we won't be able to see such great play if the teams don't come into contact with their own very often. Players need time to revisit their national teammates and rediscover the style of their national team. We need time to do the same.

So is it really too much to ask for a week pause in league play? FIFA has already decided to limit the number of international matches, so let's enjoy it while we can.

The challenge for you this week, therefore, is to think back on the World Cup and attempt to enjoy some national matches. They might not be worth as much, but in three years, I'm sure you'll feel differently.

Do you have any World Cup memories or funny stories? I implore you to please share them, especially if I haven't managed to change anyone's minds about international friendlies.

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