It’s the middle of summer in New Zealand, a time when many if not most of us are off work at the very least for Christmas, New Year and the days in between. A special time when we get to take the time to do all the things we’ve been dreaming of doing all year. Dreams we’ve had no hope of living out due to that age old nuisance of not enough hours in the day. At long last, the time is ours. We can do it all. Play golf. Hit the beach. Eat. Drink, sleep in and watch football. Lots and lots of football. Back to back, wall to wall, all you can eat football. Oh yes indeed. Isn’t it great? Bloody oath it is! Mwah ha ha ha ha!
But wait! Now is also the time that all the good (read non EPL) leagues like Serie A, the Bundesliga and La Liga choose as the best time to go on a bloody siesta! Curses! I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those pesky winter breaks.
Why oh why have them? Does my head in.
Tradition on all sides, perhaps? On the continent, the tradition of the festive season being importantly observed religious days that players and staff of football clubs, not to mention fans, should be spending with family? Whereas in the UK, the tradition seems more that football on Boxing Day and at New Year is as much part and parcel of the season as turkey and fireworks. Or is it just about TV money?
It seems that not all in the UK are convinced either way. For one, a couple of days ago Kit Holden of the Independent wrote that the Bundesliga is “far better” for the winter break. Better for it? On what criteria could he possibly be basing that bizarre assertion? How can no football be good football? He continues:
“While teams like Manchester City and Manchester United will be overloaded with FA Cup, Carling Cup, league and European fixtures over January, most top tier German clubs will be rehabilitating at overseas training camps in preparation for the second half of the season. Next week will see Bayern Munich and Schalke jet off to Qatar, Bayer Leverkusen head to Lagos and champions Borussia Dortmund hit the sunny beaches of La Manga in Spain… There is much talk of Boxing Day romance and all those other clichés in English football, but if England has learned one thing from its rollercoaster football history, it is that learning from other countries is not a phenomenon to be sneered at. Germany’s current success is built on modernisation and progressive thinking. A winter break might be just what English football needs.”
Oh yes, we mustn’t let romance get in the way of I don’t even know what… Euro 2012 glory one assumes. The fact is, if a few weeks in Majorca over Christmas was the silver bullet to catapult the Turnips to Euro glory, I’m sure Fabio Capello and the FA would be the first to pull the England squad out of the Premier League and let them laze around on a beach somewhere. However I suspect they know that while their boys are working on their tans, the nucleus of the teams of England’s main competitors would be playing on, in the EPL, keeping their match fitness up and building momentum towards Poland and the Ukraine.
Perhaps it is all about the money and the EPL doesn’t have a winter break because they simply want to screw every penny of pay TV cash out of their broadcasting partners. But the truth is, for all my socialist leanings, I don’t care about that. I don’t care about the money, the quality of football or the worker’s rights of the millionaire players – it’s about the fans. The people who pay the TV subscriptions and buy the merchandise. I work hard all year. I can’t watch games on Monday mornings when I’ve got work that day. When there are only two days off a week, I can’t fill them with football – there are too many more pressing commitments. On the all too rare days of the year when I do have time to blob out in front of football, it’s important that I get to fill the hard disk on my video recorder with Norwich vs Tottenham, Swansea vs QPR and Arsenal vs Wolves. It’s a real pity that it can’t be Dortmund vs Leverkusen, Málaga vs Valencia and/or Roma vs Fiorentina. But we make do with what we have.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.