Undoubtedly, international competitions are by far the most popular and prestigious tournaments throughout the world of sports. For decades, countries have tried to prove their supremacy on this stage, but in order to do that they need their most talented players available. In the light of recent events, like an episode involving Samuel Eto’o who refused to play for Cameroon’s national football team, questions have been raised regarding the duty of an individual to represent their country at an international level. Some say that the participation should be mandatory, while others claim that even if the players have a moral duty, the decision is entirely in their own hands. Some federations, like the Polish Volleyball Association are currently considering fines for not wanting to represent your country(1), so this phenomenon might escalate in the near future. As far as punishments are concerned, they could range from fines to more severe ones like excluding athletes from national competitions, and so on. This would always be at the discretion of the national sports associations and might differ from case to case as well as between sports. Moreover, another pressing point of interest regarding this topic is whether sportsmen should be allowed to represent a country with which they have very loose ties with(a distant relative or have only lived there a short time), thus allowing countries to virtually buy their services or if this should be forbidden. As “naturalizing players” becomes more and more often in the world of sports, this issue might be the topic of a fierce debate in the future.
(1) Siatka.org, ‘POL: Penalties for refusing to play for National team?!’, World Of Volley, 8 November 2013, http://www.worldofvolley.com/News/Latest_news/Poland/20800/pol-penalties-for-refusing-to-play-for-national-team.html
It is clear that any individual, no matter his chosen area of expertise needs the appropriate environment to achieve his maximum potential. The people involved in professional sports are no exception. They need coaches to guide them, stadiums in which to practice, sponsorship and funding to allow participation at some competitions. Any person who succeeded in making a career in sports partly owes it to the society he grew up in that provided these facilities and opportunities. Let us not forget that especially in poor areas, most of the sports trainings are done “pro bono” by good Samaritans who want to lend a hand.
Therefore, as other people invested in their development, every sportsman has the moral duty to pass on that help, and also lend a helping hand towards those who weren’t as privileged. Representing the nation is a part of this moral duty to repay that which the country has given. This improves the image of that country and allows it to get the recognition in deserves for bringing up such talented players. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of best paid soccer players in the world and mainly got to where he is due to his talent, determination and countless hours on the pitch. But he was also born in Portugal, where he took advantage of the entire football industry that exists there. If he had been born in Sri Lanka, his talent would have gone unnoticed.
There are no grounds on which to claim that these athletes have any sort of moral duty towards the society which raised him, as the society itself benefited from its investment and a moral duty should not arise from the accident of being born into a particular country.
The moral obligation, if it ever existed, is to the club and is fully fulfilled whether they stay at the club they were raised by or if they leave. If they stay, they will help the club win matches, championships and therefore money, which could in turn be used for the development for other young, talented players. If they leave, the club will receive a significant fee for the transfer, money which could again be used for the same purposes. Either way, they will bring significant advantages to the society that raised them, without having to play for the national team.
Undoubtedly, one of the most important things for a professional sportsperson is to have a long, healthy and fulfilling career. No matter what a sportspersons motivation is, whether it is the pleasure from winning or the money a player always needs to be in top form. Playing on the international level helps athletes improve themselves.
First of all, no matter of sport, the level of the sport is much more intense when it is international, as obviously, the best players are taking part in it. Santos vs Boca Juniors have always been very thrilling football matches, but none of them compare with the matches between Brazil and Argentina. If you, as an athlete, are forced to play in a much more competitive environment, then you have to bring your A-game to the pitch on every single occasion as the stakes are high every single time. In time, this improves skills and develops capabilities, as you are challenged on regular basis.
Second of all, when it comes to team sports a lot of scouts are watching internationals in the hopes of spotting new potential talents for big teams. This can be a very good opportunity for players to get noticed and to receive the credit they deserve. For example Luis Suarez transferred to Liverpool for £22.8 million in January 2011 shortly after the 2010 world cup,(1) while Alex Furgeson noted on having bought Javier Hernández ”If we had waited until after the World Cup we would have had to pay maybe three times the price”(2). If they fail to seize the opportunity, players are much more likely to remain unnoticed and unknown outside their own country. It is in their interest to be in the spotlight for the greatest amount of time, and there is no bigger stage than international competitions.
(1) Metro, ‘Luis Suarez Liverpool transfer agreed after Ajax accept £22.8m offer, 28 January 2011, http://metro.co.uk/2011/01/28/luis-suarez-liverpool-transfer-agreed-after-ajax-accept-22-8m-offer-635504/
(2) Field, Dominic, ‘Javier Hernández lifts Manchester United spirits after week of turmoil’, The Guardian, 25 October 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2010/oct/25/javier-hernandez-manchester-united
The sole thing that one must remember when judging this problem is that individuals differ from one another. Even in the world of sports, although most of the athletes are hard-working, determined and ambitious people, they have different opinions, different personalities and different views over what success means. This is exactly why we cannot generalize the recipe for an ideal life. There is no “one size fits all”.
For some players, it’s all about the competition, that thrill and excitement that you feel when playing a match, while for others the whole sporting environment is just a way of providing for their families, them not enjoying the sport per se, but rather the benefits is brings. As a result, it is of crucial importance to let people decide by their own if they want to participate in international competition. The majority will want to represent their countries, but some don’t. What should be prioritized in this instance is the happiness of the individual, and as they know best in what makes them happy, we must let the athletes chose if they want to represent their countries on a national level or not. For example, Samuel Eto’o refused to play for Cameroon in a friendly match because the Cameroonian Football Association didn’t pay his fee for previous international matches. As a result, he prioritized his personal time over exhausting himself in matches that didn’t bring him any sort of advantages. (1) His decision should be respected.
(1) Gama, Karla Villegas, “Samuel Eto'o Refuses to Play for Cameroon National Team Again “, Bleacher Reports August 27, 2012 http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1313251-samuel-etoo-refuses-to-play-for-cameroon-national-team-again
It is not just the player or athlete who benefits from taking part in international competitions but the nation as well. Every nation wants to do well in international sporting completions and every national wants their nation to do well internationally. Every country wants all of their best sportspeople to take part so that they have as much success as possible. This is partially about prestige; Jamaica is perhaps best known worldwide at the moment as a result of the fame of Usain Bolt and other successful sprinters, if it was not known for this it might instead be known for its gang wars and murder which is not what a country wants people to think of when their country is mentioned. (1)
But it is also about the economy. Countries that do well in international competitions may get an economic boost as a result. Economists suggested that winning the World Cup could have a positive impact of between 0.25 and 0.5%, which if it is in the context of near zero growth can be a big impact. This is a result of the feel-good factor from the victory. And we must not forget that feel-good factor itself; wining international competitions, or even just individual events lifts the mood of the country.
And if a country is successful in a sport then that sport provides an opportunity to bring social benefits through social programs to reduce violence or campaigns such as that against racism.(2) Success is however something which is much more likely if a country is able to field its best athletes and players internationally.
(1) Observer Crime Reporter, ‘Murders soar’, Jamaica Observer, 24 September 2013, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murders-soar_15121749
(2) The Economist, ‘Crime in Mexico: Out of sight, not out of mind’, 19 October 2013, http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21588071-having-decided-play-down-fight-against-drug-kingpins-enrique-pe-nieto-has-yet-come
It should not be dependent on one man or one woman to carry the weight of the nation upon their shoulders. Winning the world cup should not be about just whether an individual plays or not but about the team. Even in the Olympics one individual’s performance makes little difference in most cases to the whole of the team.
Good results may lift a nation but it is wrong to suggest that this should mean that everyone who is called on to represent their nation should have to answer that call. It is up to the coaches and managers to make the best use of the men and women they do have.
Moreover if a country is relying on one individual then they are almost certainly putting too much pressure on them. Instead the country needs to focus on broadening the base of the team by finding more talent so that no one individual is irreplaceable. It should be remembered that individuals are far more often unable to take part in international competition as a result of injury or other reasons rather than a refusal to represent their country.
Liberty is the foundation stone of society. Every individual must be free to do as they choose and one part of freedom is the freedom to walk away from work when you are asked. Forcing sportspeople to represent their nation in international competition is would be a kind of unfree labour very similar to involuntary servitude, or to take a more recent example conscription. They would be forced to work without their consent and for a considerably less good reason than defence of the nation. By requiring sportspeople to represent their nations we are forcing individuals to take part in actions, which, in their view, don't bring them any benefit. This is clearly the case as they rejected participating in them in the first place.
We are also ignoring that those who do not wish to take part may have legitimate reasons for rejecting a call up. This may be a fear of industry or protesting against the policies of their sport’s governing body. For example, Hilditch is one of three senior national team players who refused to participate in the Nations Cup, to protest Rugby Canada’s pay-to-play system for women in non-World Cup years.(1)
The thing that is certain is that there is no one size fits all policy which would be generally embraced by all the sportsmen. We must let them decide which course of action best suits their interest. As we have embraced the individual freedom as a core principle of our society, we must let these people shape their lives however they want.
(1) Toronto Star, ‘Canada players refuse “pay-to-play”’, Scrum Queens, July 2011, http://www.scrumqueens.com/news/canada-players-refuse-pay-play
It is true that freedom is one of the core principles of society, but it is neither an absolute value, nor one which isn’t legitimate to confine at some moments. This coercive measure isn’t very time or energy intensive. In general, international competitions are pretty scarce, once every two or four years, and they last only for a couple of weeks. Therefore, the athletes have total freedom over their career, as coming to a championship once in a while won’t affect it.
In addition, the sportsmen shouldn’t be looking at this decision judging solely by their interests. The decision-making process should take more factors into consideration. In a significant number of cases, there is reason to believe that the players think only about themselves and don’t think about the help they could give to their team and therefore to the nation. For example, the Cameroonian footballers refused to appear in a friendly against Algeria just because the Federation didn't pay the corresponding bonuses and appearance fees for two games (against Morocco and Sudan).(1) Such examples of selfish behaviour should be discouraged. They shouldn’t prioritize a small sum of money, which they would’ve eventually received, over the fans. Under this curtain of “freedom” we are allowing them to be selfish and always put their needs first. A society where players would give from their own time in order to help achieve a greater goal is a more desirable one.
(1) Gama, Karla Villegas, “Samuel Eto'o Refuses to Play for Cameroon National Team Again “, Bleacher Reports, 27 August 2012 http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1313251-samuel-etoo-refuses-to-play-for-cameroon-national-team-again
There is an old saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. In order for this proposal to be taken into consideration, a problem regarding the world of sports must be identified.
Fortunately for sports, it works like a charm. In a great many sports revenues are going up, television rights are being sold for higher prices than ever before and more and more children are enrolling in sporting activities. Despite the global economic slowdown, sports revenues worldwide should grow by about 3.7 percent to $145.3 billion by 2015, according to a research report.(1) The current system works and there is no need to change it.
Moreover, if we were to introduce this coercive measure, there would be numerous disadvantages without significant benefits. It would make no sense to create purposeless tensions between individuals and sporting federations. It is even more absurd considering that competitions and sporting events wouldn't benefit at all. This is because almost all top sportspeople accept the request to represent their country, and indeed see it as an honour and privilege.
Therefore, it would create no advantages regarding the level of the game or increase the spectacle.
(1) Stutchbury, Greg, “Sports Industry Expected To Continue Steady Growth Despite Economic Woes: Report” , Huffington Post, 12 September 2011 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/09/sports-industry-expected-grow-2015-report_n_1138706.html
How well the finances of sports are doing has little relevance to the international game. Indeed it creates the potential problem that as club, or domestic level competition grows more lucrative so sportspeople may feel that they have less need of taking part internationally.
Even if there are currently few who reject a call up this is something that will vary from nation to nation, sport to sport, and time to time. Any national sporting association that faces a crisis that threatens to disrupt their capability of meeting international competition should have the ability to make it compulsory for their best players to represent their country. Thus when Cameroon’s players engaged in strike action it was not just one player which the team could do without but the whole team who did so.(1)
Moreover, even if lower quality players can be substitutes the change would still influence the overall face of the competition and the team’s chances. Having the best possible players, even if some are there by compulsion increases competition to be selected. This puts more pressure on everyone to perform. Every player who will come to the national team can be a valuable asset for it, either if he plays or if he “warms up” the bench.
(1) Associated Press, ‘Cameroon squad go on strike in row over appearance bonuses’, theguardian.com, 15 November 2011, http://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/nov/15/cameroon-squad-strike-row-algeria
A man who performs a certain task out voluntarily is guaranteed to solve it better, faster and more efficiently than someone who is forced to do it against his will. Even if these players would come and participate in the training and matches, there is no guarantee that they will give 100%.
Any sportsperson who did not want to appear at the competition is not going to be motivated no matter what it was that meant they did not want to attend. This will be even more the case if the reason was one of fitness, tiredness or form.
The second reason which will add to the lack of dedication from these players is the frustration that they are forced to play against their will. If they cannot change the system, or appeal, then it can only lead to more irritation and indignation. Not a good frame of mind for an international competition. Discord in a team can only lead to failure, as shown by France’s humiliating drop out of the 2010 world cup having not won a game despite having big international stars.(1)
When performance is affected by motivation then there is little coaches or managers can do except take them off the team. They will simply perform less well than more motivated athletes so that they don’t need to take part, so fulfilling their original intent.
(1) Associated Press, ‘Humiliation now complete for France at World Cup’, ESPN, 22 June 2010, http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?id=5316645
The claim according to which players would willingly play badly in order to get thrown out from the team is not only false, but completely outrageous. There are several points which indicate this.
These are extremely popular and important competitions. In order to get to international level you need to have a very strong character, to value your team mates and cherish the fans. No such player would be willing to throw a match by playing badly. Doing so would hurt the team, fans and nation, and bring widespread criticism.
Throwing a game is also noticeable if there is a significant difference between domestic and international form. Being selected shows good form making it difficult to claim another reason for poor results. Moreover, if they are found out, they have a lot to lose, as their reputation would be destroyed. The Pakistani cricket team scandal involving corruption and match-fixing proves the risks players face when trying to get involved in backstage games and alter the result through poor performance. (1)This damages the athlete’s career, their reputation (even if it is not corrupt) and their financial situation. No one will want someone known for unprofessional behaviour.
(1) Greenwood, Chris, “Bowlers Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Aamer received a year and six months respectively ”, Daily Mail, 4 November 2011 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2056982/Pakistan-spot-fixing-players-corrupt-agent-jailed-cricket-betting-scandal.html
Associated Press, ‘Cameroon squad go on strike in row over appearance bonuses’, theguardian.com, 15 November 2011, http://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/nov/15/cameroon-squad-strike-row-algeria
Associated Press, ‘Humiliation now complete for France at World Cup’, ESPN, 22 June 2010, http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?id=5316645
Field, Dominic, ‘Javier Hernández lifts Manchester United spirits after week of turmoil’, The Guardian, 25 October 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2010/oct/25/javier-hernandez-manchester-united
Gama, Karla Villegas, “Samuel Eto'o Refuses to Play for Cameroon National Team Again “, Bleacher Reports, 27 August 2012 http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1313251-samuel-etoo-refuses-to-play-for-cameroon-national-team-again
Greenwood, Chris, “Bowlers Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Aamer received a year and six months respectively ”, Daily Mail, 4 November 201, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2056982/Pakistan-spot-fixing-players-corrupt-agent-jailed-cricket-betting-scandal.html
Metro, ‘Luis Suarez Liverpool transfer agreed after Ajax accept £22.8m offer, 28 January 2011, http://metro.co.uk/2011/01/28/luis-suarez-liverpool-transfer-agreed-after-ajax-accept-22-8m-offer-635504/
Observer Crime Reporter, ‘Murders soar’, Jamaica Observer, 24 September 2013, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Murders-soar_15121749
Stutchbury, Greg, “Sports Industry Expected To Continue Steady Growth Despite Economic Woes: Report” , Huffington Post, 12 September 2011 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/09/sports-industry-expected-grow-2015-report_n_1138706.html
The Economist, ‘Crime in Mexico: Out of sight, not out of mind’, 19 October 2013, http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21588071-having-decided-play-down-fight-against-drug-kingpins-enrique-pe-nieto-has-yet-come
Toronto Star, ‘Canada players refuse “pay-to-play”’, Scrum Queens, July 2011, http://www.scrumqueens.com/news/canada-players-refuse-pay-play