No, Foreign Players Are Not the Problem in Soccer Today

Updated on March 23, 2019

An Unusual Sight

At about 94 minutes the final whistle blew, a sound that would be the final piercing stab into the hearts of Italians all around. November 13th, 2017, marked a sad day for Italian football as the national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the first time since 1958, the same year Eisenhower was the American President and Hula Hoops were invented. Tears, anger, and blame on one sideline and ecstasy, excitement, and teamwork on the other. The blame spread around after the game to the coach, Ventura; the aging players, De Rossi, Barzagli, etc.; and last of all, Serie A.

All these are fair criticisms but what ensued was the blaming of foreign players within Serie A, the Italian football league. The logic of that argument is that since Serie A seems to have more foreign players, the national team is robbed of Italian talent. However, this argument holds little water given the comparisons to the Premier League, the interesting use of the youth system, as well as the generational gap.

Source

Debunking the "Foreign Players Argument"

Many argue that because Serie A has too many foreign players, opportunity is stripped from Italians trying to get playing time and therefore these Italians are not seen and not picked by the national team. However, this claim is not really based on any conclusive evidence. Instead, in 2016, a study was conducted by the CIES Football Observatory, which showed that Italy was ranked 3rd in amount of foreign players (57.9%) in their league, only behind Belgium and England.1

According to the same study, England's league (Barclays Premier League) consists of 66.4% of foreign players, nearly 10 percent more than that of Italy. There lies one crucial difference between the two national teams; England is in the 2018 World Cup while Italy is not. The English national team is fairly strong and they are a young team with an average age of 26. It is clear that the Premier League has an overwhelming amount of foreign players but it does not seem to have heavily hurt their attempt at international success. For more perspective, the German league (Bundesliga) has 50.1 % of foreign players in their league, 7 percent less than Italy, which is not a large gap. The German national team are defending World Cup and Confederations Cup champions. So it is quite clear that the amount of foreign players in leagues do not heavily influence a national team's success or failure, especially Italy.

The Future is Bright...Right?

A similar argument is that club teams choose foreign players over young native players which leads to the youth players not getting enough experience. This could be true but it is of no fault to the club team. The club teams in the league and the national team are theoretically two separate entities and therefore have their own interests. In fact, many Serie A teams already field a large number of young players with loads of potential, some of which have already had playing time in the national team. Donnarumma and Romagnolli from AC Milan, Rugani from Juventus, Gagliardini from Inter Milan, and many others.

Overall, Italy's under-21 team has made some improvements and even advanced to the semi-final of the under-21 European Championship in 2017. Could some of these players benefit from more playing time in the top leagues? The answer is absolutely, but winning is everything and if a certain country's youth does not provide the immediate talent, the club team will hesitate to invest.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, 19-Year-Old Starting Goalkeeper Playing for AC Milan

Source

Out With the Old and In With the New

Foreign players were never blamed when things were going well. Italy won the World Cup in 2006, were runners up in the European Cup in 2012, and reached the quarter-finals in the 2016 edition of the European Cup. However, when they crashed out of the World Cup group stage in 2010 and 2014, the attacks against foreign players arose and now they are coming back.

However, another explanation for the decline in performance is the generational gap. The recent, questionable coaching of the national team has often relied on older players, especially players from that World Cup year in 2006. As of 2014, there were four players from the 2006 competition in the starting line-up. As of 2016, three starters. Although Gianluigi Buffon is arguably the greatest goalkeeper of all time, the reigns could have been handed to Gianluigi Donnarumma. It seems as if this year though, after the firing of Gian Piero Ventura, Italy is attempting to rebuild. The point is that a high-caliber team such as Italy is able to rebuild without slandering foreign players. There are plenty of young Italian starters in Serie A and in time more will appear.

Solutions

Instead of blaming the failures of the Italian national team on foreign players, the best course of action is to discuss what went wrong and how to move forward in a respectful and dignified manner. The first problem was handled following the wake of the loss to Sweden; Ventura had been fired. The coach's tactics or lack thereof ultimately crippled the team and as a result the energy and passion of some of the players declined and their performance followed. Secondly, there does need to be an influx of resources and funds to the youth program. If the youth are inherently better than foreign talent, club teams will have no problems choosing the young, native players. Another potential solution would be to slowly evolve the style of Italian football. The Italian national team is stuck in old tactics and is constantly beaten by faster, younger, attacking teams. The national team does not have to give up on its defending mentality but it can no longer rely on it. Nevertheless, Italy must make still use of its historically strong defense given its already talented pool of defenders to choose from.

Lastly, what Serie A and the rest of Italian football must do is to stop the racism. The constant bashing of foreign players and racist chants in stadiums have no place in the game loved by all cultures, nations, races, and genders. Instead of being destructive, let's all be constructive in our criticism. Football, or soccer if you will, is one of the only sports that is loved across the whole world, if we continue to alienate people from it, the only thing that will suffer is the game itself.

Notes

1 Poli, Raffaele, Loïc Ravenel and Roger Besson. "Foreign players in football teams." CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report. Issue no. 12. February 2016.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Gianfranco Regina

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, howtheyplay.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://howtheyplay.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)