Greetings from Germany. I have been on the road in Europe for the past few weeks, experiencing the wonders of May on the continent, including a snowstorm in Toulouse week before last and unending rain and cold weather in Germany. I am currently in Paderborn, spending some time at the university.
The news here in Germany is 100% Michael Ballack, 24×7. In case you missed it, Ballack, anticipated to be a key player for Germany in the World Cup next month, was injured in the final of the FA Cup while playing for his club team, Chelsea, and has been declared out. The picture to the right is not the tackle he was injured on, but photos and video of the play are airing continuously on German TV, and conspiracy theories are being concocted on a daily basis.
The loss of Ballack clearly hurts Germany’s chances in South Africa next month. It also points out the primary source of tension between clubs competing in financially lucrative domestic leagues (like the English Premier League) and tournaments (like the FA Cup) and popular but not financially lucrative international competitions like the World Cup and the EUEFA European Championship. Clubs competing in domestic leagues pay top international players like Ballack huge salaries, but they also play for national teams in international competitions that attract intense interest from fans. Players, clubs, national teams, and FIFA have to carefully balance the goals of domestic clubs and national teams. Chelsea would not have wanted Ballack to sit out the FA Cup final in order to make sure he was available for the World Cup; Ballack’s injury hurts the German national team, but not Chelsea. Both the FA and FIFA want the top players in the world to take part in the competitions they sponsor, because having the best players participate generates the most revenues. Since injuries often happen, and fatigue eventually sets in for even elite international athletes, trade-offs must occur.