Letter to the Editor - ‘Players belong to the clubs and not to the national team’


11-September-2018

It is with upmost interest that I have followed the polemics around the preparations of our national football team for last Saturday’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2019 qualifier clash against Nigeria, with coach Gavin Jeanne complaining of the local clubs and the players’ employees being un-cooperative.

In the interest of Seychelles’ football and as someone personally involved in the development of our favourite sport, kindly permit me to make some comments and suggestions on the situation, and once again – as I have done it several times before –, on its current state in general.

First of all however, let me congratulate coach Gavin and his boys for a respectable performance on Saturday. We will remember that the honourable result follows equally good performances in the Cosafa Cup held in South Africa in May this year.

Special mention should go to La Passe goalkeeper Dave Mussard who has been unreasonably criticised after the match. Dave should not be condemned and rather deserves our support. As, if he was chosen for the match, this means he was the best goalkeeper available. In spite of conceding three goals – two of which from set pieces it should be noted –, he produced his best, making at least three decisive saves.

For the future success of Seychelles’ football it is nevertheless necessary for us to reflect on the following points:

1. Players belong to the clubs and not to the national team

We should understand that players do not belong to the national team: They belong to their clubs who have signed them and who in cases of most first division teams in Seychelles, pay them a monthly allowance and/or a match bonus.

So except for when there are international assignments, players must remain available on a daily basis for training and playing matches with and for the clubs.

2. A national selection should not exist on a permanent basis

So, contrary to some expressing the wish to have a permanent selection, a national team should not train on a permanent basis. Players must rather train with their clubs whom I insist pay them, and be called to the national team only to play an international match.

At the same time, the preparations for an international match can last from three days to one week, or more only when there is a competition like Cosafa or the Indian Ocean Island Games. Again, a long training camp should not take place during the season. How can a player appear for his club during the weekend when during the week he has not trained with the club and rather with the national team?

Based on the same logic, if the players were not released by their employers for the match against Nigeria last Saturday, - especially those from Praslin and La Digue -, I simply think it was unwise and unnecessary to make them travel to and from work every morning and evening. This in my view, is a complete waste of money, time and energy. It would have been best to negotiate two days off work and get them together full time as from Wednesday or Thursday. As examples, the Nigerians started their preparations on Wednesday. France who are world champions played Germany on Thursday last week. Their preparations only started the previous Monday. This, after the players had played their weekend matches with their clubs.

Following the match against Nigeria, it would equally not be wise at all to keep the same team together and get them train two times a week. Some players may be dropped and others called in according to their form or the coach's chosen tactics. So it does not make sense to keep them all together. They should go back to their clubs and in my view, a selection should be called one week – after the weekend matches – before the next international match.

3. The national team should play at least 10 matches a year

Ideally and according to international norms, national selections should play at least 10 international matches in a year, official ones and friendlies included. This added to major competitions they may take part in during the year. For that, Fifa defines what it calls ‘international match days’, dedicated to international friendlies.

The SFF however never makes profit of those days. While around the world countries are playing football against each other, our own national team remain idle. If rather they were in action on those days, this would increase their gathering and training frequency and at the same time exclude the need of a “permanent” squad. It would also exclude the need of trying to organise a “friendly match” against a club or foreign local-based selection.

It could be argued that international matches cost a lot of money. We, however, need regular competition and it should not be difficult to organise home and away matches against neighboring countries or those with direct air link. We could also invite over small European nations such as Faroe Islands, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Luxembourg. I am sure their players would like to combine a short tropical holiday with a football match!

4. Change from amateur status

The issue of employees not releasing the players for training permits to reflect on our current amateur status. I agree that we will not progress as long as we remain amateurs. But the change to professional or at least semi-professional status is not government responsibility as many seem to believe.

While I agree that government should subsidise all the clubs – and not only those registered under the districts –, in order to facilitate this and ultimately get the performance of our national team to improve.

The change to professional status can only be initiated by the clubs. The question then is with our small population and a few spectators at matches, where will the money come from? The most plausible answer seems to be more private sector involvement through sponsorships.

Attracting more advertising and getting the businesses pay more for same is another avenue to consider.

One other is to sell broadcasting rights to television stations. Incidentally, the issue came to fore last weekend when people enquired why SBC could not bring a live transmission of the Seychelles-Nigeria encounter. Some fail to realise that this is not decided by the Nigerians, nor by SBC, nor by the Seychelles Football Federation (SFF). It is decided by the African Football Confederation (Caf) which sells the transmission rights to a media organisation. Such is for Fifa competitions/matches. Even for individual federations, they sell the rights to one media organisation which in turn resell them to other TV stations.

In Seychelles also and based on the same model, I think it is high time the SFF rethinks of the way things are done: Local stations simply cannot continue to film and broadcast for free while the actors involved (federation, clubs, players) get nothing.

5. An appropriate youth structure

For the future success of Seychelles’ football, it is imperative that the SFF immediately puts into place an appropriate youth structure. This means a proper competitive league for all levels/age groups (Under 19, U17, U15, U13…). The crucial structure could be introduced as from the beginning of the next season, with at least each first division team obliged to start with an U19 side. It is only through youth teams and competition that we will be able to produce quality players for the clubs as well as national selections.

There is an ongoing argument over the number of foreigners plying their trade in our local league against a lack of young Seychellois players. The argument of foreign players barring the place of locals cannot stand. The reality is simply that we are not producing young quality players!

6. Consultation between national team management and the clubs

Finally, to put an end to polemics concerning the preparation of international matches, it can be proposed that the national team management meet representatives of the clubs concerned to discuss this national issue and find a solution satisfactory to all.

 

Michel Savy

 

 

 

 

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