the dangers of demand

i don’t know about the rest of you, but my fantasy team is taking a beating this season. it’s like any semblance of any football understanding has vacated my brain, rendering the equivalent of this type of soccer fan. i just can’t figure it out this year, and it’s infuriating.

even ironmen like kuyt are being over-exerted.

in fact, unless you can somehow swing starting chelsea’s staring XI, you’re probably not doing all that well. i suppose it’s not all that surprising to see the best fantasy players coming from the team that’s sitting at the top of the table. well, that and some fat dude named charlie adam that plays for blackpool. but it is surprising to not see more players from man city, tottenham or arsenal pushing into the top points earners as much as you would think. why is that?

maybe it’s because we are over playing our great players.

injuries to prominent players are on the rise, up 62% in recent years… at least according to a poll i just made up. regardless of whether my statistics are made up or not, just looking at the gamut of class players that are currently crocked (or have been recently) is telling enough:

cesc fabregas, wayne rooney (at least in the head), xavi, robin van persie (mr. glass is always hurt) rio ferdinand, fernando torres (mrs. glass on the account of his hair), cristiano ronaldo, jermaine defoe, leo messi, frank lampard, dirk kuyt.

it’s a lengthy list to say the least, and one that’s sure to grow… especially if we start counting all of the people nigel de jong is gunning to destroy.

part of this, as fans, is our fault: we created the demand. we want to see our favorite players where we live, not just on the boob tube. and in order to make that possible, clubs head out on the road in the summer to play pre-season matches in far flung locations like america, australia and the far east. our thirst for top level football is out of control.

and where there is high demand, there is money to be made. and where there is money to be made, exploitation will occur. the only reason these clubs go on these preseason tours, keeping in mind that these are unnecessary games, is to reap the financial rewards of said tours. schedule five matches, mainly play reserve players while easing your stars in and out of those matches, and charge the same for tickets that you would back home for regular season matches that actually count for something, profit.

remember, we haven’t even thrown in the added grind of national team duties. how many of the players on the list above played at the world cup this summer? oh yeah, all of them. a hypothetical star player could be playing in up to 80 competitive matches in a world cup or european championship year. look at how many injuries those same players picked up while playing/training with the national team.

the problem isn’t that the clubs/fa’s and moneymakers are exploiting the demand we created for our money. no the problem is the clubs/countries are exploiting their players for our money.

now i’m sure some of you out there are saying, “it’s not like these guys aren’t being lavishly rewarded for this ‘abuse’ they’re suffering.” and you’re right, they are being paid what some would call a decent wage. but the price many of them are paying for it is their bodies.

let’s take michael essien as an example. the chelsea man is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the best all around footballers on the planet (you can literally play him anywhere). he’s a vital cog in the blues domestic and european efforts, as well as featuring as the talisman for his national team, ghana.

in september of 2008 essien blew out his ACL  for ghana, prompting fears of him missing the entire 2008-2009 season. though essien was back in march of 2009, he didn’t regain full fitness until the start of the next club season. he fought with the injury in the lead up to the ridiculously-timed african cup of nations, where many speculated it would be a bad place to play him when the team had already qualified for the world cup. ignoring the advice of experts, they rushed him back to play and he reinjured the knee, forcing him to miss all of the rest of the 2009-2010 club season and the world cup.

maybe if we didn't place so much strain on his obviously fragile body, we would be able to enjoy the abilities of a truly fit torres.

i’ve long speculated that fernando torres’ chronic injury issues are tied to the fact that he’s been rushed back multiple times to play in big games for liverpool and spain. relatively young players like cesc fàbregas have been burning the candle at both ends for a solid six years now. look at how he’s falling to pieces at a more regular rate. could all of the games he’s logged on his young legs be the cause of his body falling apart at a younger age than expected? jack wilshire, please be taking notes.

look, i know that this is the part of the sacrifice you make to get the benefits of the commercialization of the game (like me even being able to watch multiple european games a week from my living room). but i worry that if we keep pressing these guys to play more than they can actually handle, that we’ll really be limiting the amount of time we’ll be able to enjoy watching them play.

it’s a viscious circle, and one that i don’t think we’ll be seeing an end to any time soon.

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