Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Back to the Toy Department

After two days of dealing with weighty issues, we return to issues considered weighty by those involved ... but, ultimately delightfully frivolous. Which is what sports is about, is it not?

It is the latest eruption in the long-running "club vs. country" debate.

Over most of the eight-month history of this blog, club coaches have been going after national coaches for pushing their lads too hard, allowing them to aggravate injuries and putting their World Cup activities at risk. Cristiano Ronaldo comes to mind.

This time, it is the national coach who is irate, and the club coach who is on the defensive.

Specifically, we have Raymond Domenech of France attacking Arsene Wenger, also a Frenchmen, but in this case more importantly the coach of English club team Arsenal.

Wenger played William Gallas, a top French defender most recently notorious with les bleus for scoring the goal after Thierry Henry's infamous handball vs. Ireland. Anyway, Wenger started Gallas in a high-profile Champions League match vs. Barcelona.

Gallas had been struggling with a calf injury, and had been out for weeks. His comeback didn't last until halftime; Gallas reinjured his calf in the match with Barca and now will be out more than a month.

Which has Domenech hopping mad. "I'm livid and pissed off," Domenech told reporters. "It's outrageous and irresponsible to have played him so early after the injury. It's scandalous. He'd better be fit for the World Cup."

Meanwhile, Wenger is not exactly apologizing.

"I don't think it will cost him (Gallas) his World Cup," Wenger said. "I believe he declared himself fit and I have the reports from the rehabilitation center where he worked for 10 days and he had four days training with the team. Maybe we should have taken some more time but he was jumping, running up and down the stairs in France, had very hard sessions. At some stage you are in a job where you have to produce performances."

He added that it was Gallas's decision, too.

Said Wenger: "Gallas was born in 1977 - he's 32 - so you ask a player of that experience, 'do you feel ready to play? Have you worked hard enough? Do you feel ready to go into this game?' When they say yes you have to believe them. We have to first take care of the interests of Arsenal.

"The French national team is important, but Arsenal is, as well, and he is paid by the club, not the French national team. We have to use the players when they declare themselves fit."

Somehow, we doubt that mollified Domenech, who may be without one of his starting XI. And will have to make a decision on him by May 18.

This won't be the last we hear of these problems. Not with club seasons reaching their climax and the World Cup barely nine weeks away. But these are problems we can handle.
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