ICC isn't just cricket, right? Pre-season football is increasingly overblown

Image result for international champions cup 2018

At the time of writing, the International Champions Cup (ICC) is being concluded. This is being played in various cities/countries around the world, including Ireland, Singapore, and the United States. It involves many of the world's biggest and best-supported clubs, from Manchester United to Real Madrid, Barca to Juve, and Bayern to PSG.

It's fine for clubs to play overseas, and there are some boons here. It allows foreign fans to see their heroes, as much as British-based Man United fans can see Pogba, Lukaku, Sanchez, or de Gea. It's also good for clubs, since they earn more, and increase their commercial scopes.

But despite these points, the ICC "trophy" represents a great bane in modern football. That is the growth in "importance" of pre-season football.

Without sounding like an old fogey, it never used to be this way. The only ICC I had heard of was the governing body of cricket, not a pre-season football tournament.

Pre-season football is meaningless, or should be such. But then there are several reasons:

Fan anger

Yes, anger. If teams win or lose, it's quite perplexing and comical to see fans get irate or joyous on social media.

If these were competitive games, then fine. But they're not. It's just wasted energy, getting irate or happy at these results.

A bane of contemporary football

Football today, vis a vis 30 years ago, is far more commercialised. I believe this is overall a good thing. It has provided (from an English standpoint, being an Arsenal fan) better players and stadiums, as well as superior training facilities, and the Premier League's global presence. Commercialisation has led to a general re-branding that largely eliminated hooliganism, racism, and sexism at grounds. It's acceptable now for women to attend football, which wasn't the case in the 1970s and 1980s, largely due to misogyny from fans, and even sexual harassment and chauvinism in some cases. Non-whites are also more welcome and accepted, which was not the case ]decades ago.

But fans today are conditioned to see these pre-season tournaments as major events, when there is no way they can be seen as primary or major trophies. For every plus, I believe there is a negative, and with the many plusses of modern football, the pre-season hype is a chief bad point.

The real emphasis is ignored

Pre-season football should be, and is by players, managers, and fans (largely), seen as means to train players, learn new tactics, and gain fitness.

To use an analogy, if one is at the gym for a heavy workout, there is a warm-up period (and warm down at the end). Pre-season is like a warm-up for the season, and to also integrate new players, and possibly new formations before the season starts.

Liverpool v S.S.C Napoli - Pre Season Friendly
Klopp, like all managers, will use this to hone his new signings

Games won or lost in pre-season often hold little pertinence to the season at large. I recall as a kid/teen in 1996, before Wenger became Arsenal manager. The club lost some friendlies, but then in that first league season under Wenger, Arsenal finished 3rd behind Man United and Newcastle.

In more recent times, Liverpool beat Barcelona 5-1 in summer 2017. But despite the former reaching the Champions League final, Barca won La Liga. Liverpool has not won the English league in a generation. This had little bearing on how each club performed in the season.

To extend the gym analogy, warm-ups are just about preparation, and are far from the final goal, or the main goal. Pre-season football is the same. This hype and emphasis misses the point, and is a huge anti-climax. The point of a gym session should not just be about the warm-up, and the same is with pre-season. The modern buzz of pre-season places a wrong emphasis on how things should be developed, and on the games that actually matter.

ICC - not just cricket

I only thought there was one ICC up until recently. Isn't it supposed to be hosting next year? Or have cricket and football merged into a singular sport? I guess the Qatar World Cup will be held by FIFAICC, right?:

Image result for cricket world cup 2019
To be held by the other ICC...

Jokes aside, this new pre-season format does well in bolstering the global game. As many of the participating clubs have worldwide support, it gives overseas fans opportunities to see their heroes. Arsenal's recent ICC win vs. Chelsea allowed Irish fans a chance to see the Gunners close up. Ireland isn't far from the UK, granted, but it can be a hassle to travel on occasion:

These are "trophies" that are meaningless, and performances in given games are meaningless also. A bad performance per se means nothing, and neither does a good one. Pre-season is about progression, fitness, preparation, and tactical development. It also co-ordinates clubs' pre-season preparations and administration, including hiring stadiums, promotional activities, etc. This can be expensive, and clubs these days are about maximising revenues. So it's a good balance for all concerned, and its effects are not all bad. Football is global, and it's good to get all fans the opportunity to see their heroes in action.

But the modern emphasis on pre-season is ultimately unwarranted.

I'm writing this just before the 2018 Community Shield - Chelsea vs. Man City. And I doubt Pep nor Sarri would care that much if they won or lost. This game is possibly the most glorified friendly of them all, but Sarri and Pep know that the rubber really meets the road from 11th/12th August 2018, when the Premier League starts in earnest.

Image result for 2018 community shield
Glorified friendlies aside, they both know the real test starts when the PL commences
Edited by Arvind Sriram
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