THE WAY FORWARD: Sydney FC Graham Arnold wants an international break for the A-League.
THE WAY FORWARD: Sydney FC Graham Arnold wants an international break for the A-League. GETTY IMAGES

OPINION: Give players a break, this has to change

THE time has come for Football Federation Australia to take a look at how it handles the international break.

This week the majority of A-League teams will lose first team players to the Socceroos, who are playing a friendly in Japan next week, and the under-23 side, ahead of a youth tournament against Brazil, China and South Korea.

Granted, the international fixtures have joined together to form a perfect storm situation.

But the club-versus-country issue has taken greater significance in Australia now that the A-League has improved and more and more players are being chosen to play at a national level.

All of the major European leagues have a break for international matches to align with a FIFA mandate.

And with the apparent balance of players moving more towards home soil, something has to change here too.

In tomorrow's Big Blue between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory for example, nine players - three from the Sky Blues and six from Victory - will be missing, and that cannot be fair on anyone, including the fans.

Coaches do not necessarily have the resources to overcome losses like that, and the fans who pay good money expect to see the best players performing in the A-League.

I agree with Sydney coach Graham Arnold, who this week came out and said the powers-that-be need take a look at the situation.

Don't forget, Arnold has coached at both Socceroos and Olyroos level, so he knows what it's like on both sides of the fence, he is not just moaning because his team is one that's suffering.

"I've been saying it for five years but nobody has listened," Arnold said when asked about international breaks. "Maybe now they will.

"In fact, I did a document in 2006 about aligning the A-League with FIFA dates.

"...It's simple - you just have to have a break, or you let teams play that aren't affected."

An answer to the problem with the FFA Cup at semi-final stages would have been to play those on the weekend, with the A-League taking a break, so as to minimise the disruption at clubs.

As it is, Wellington Phoenix will have six of its 23-man squad missing after being called up for New Zealand, which plays China tonight, while opponent Adelaide will only have one player on international duty, reserve goalkeeper John Hall.

Perth Glory will lose four players and Brisbane Roar three plus others too miss players.

All of this can be avoided with a bit of common sense.

Now is the time for action.



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