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Monday Moan: Rio right, press are wrong

Mark Holmes blasts the English media's treatment of San Marino, defends Rio Ferdinand's England snub and backs footballers' right to be rich.

Last Updated: 25/03/13 at 23:35 Post Comment

England: Comfortable victors against San Marino

England: Comfortable victors against San Marino

English media shows its (lack of) class

Since Friday night, you will have read or heard plenty of people arguing the pointlessness of international games between the likes of England and San Marino.

To many, an 8-0 win for Roy Hodgson's side in Serravalle confirmed their opinion that San Marino and the other lowest ranked teams in international football should have to play in a pre-qualifying tournament to earn the right to play actual qualifiers for the World Cup.

You may have noticed that none of these opinions came from anyone associated with San Marino.

No, while San Marino's coach, Giampaolo Mazza, spoke excitedly before the game about "the biggest event in our football history" and has previously said his team "takes part in this competition with every right", English football pundits are united in their belief that the minnows gain nothing from games like Friday's.

The punditry on ITV was so patronising that the San Marino FA even took to Twitter to complain.

"You should do something with this ITV's arrogant, ignorant and rude comments and coverages about us, San Marino," read one tweet, aimed at the English FA. "This is just disgraceful," read another.

They had a point. Who are we to decide what is good for San Marino? Do all those pundits calling for a pre-qualifying tournament really care about the San Marino team, or do they just not want to have to watch England playing against such inferior opposition?

The other two teams at the bottom of FIFA's rankings are Bhutan, in South Asia, and Turks and Caicos Islands, in the Antilles. Presumably those calling for pre-qualifiers have no problem with the lowest-ranked teams travelling to other continents to play games?

It would be interesting, also, to hear where they feel the cut-off point should be. Andorra, for example, are the world's sixth-lowest ranked team, yet were beaten only 2-0 by England in the opening qualifying game for the last World Cup. Was that, too, a pointless exercise?

No matter how small their chances of success, San Marino have earned their right to play in games such as Friday night's, just as England often earn the chance to play in major tournaments despite knowing a superior team will knock them out.

The bottom line is that no English person has the right to say what games San Marino should and should not be playing in.

Ferdinand criticism over the top

Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on regarding his snub, it is impossible to deny Rio Ferdinand has been made to look bad by his decision to fly to Qatar to commentate on Friday night's game having refused a call-up because of an "intricate, pre-planned fitness programme".

Ferdinand would have faced criticism even if he had agreed to cover on the game from the UK, and he would likely have faced criticism had he travelled to Qatar, as he had always planned, but not agreed to any punditry work.

It is common for Premier League teams to spend mid-season breaks in the Middle East, but Ferdinand was always going to be under scrutiny after snubbing his call-up. He should have had the sense to turn down the TV work.

However, Ferdinand should not be criticised for the initial snub.

After being left out of Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad for "footballing reasons" and not receiving the merest hint since then that he could yet win a recall, it's fair to say his call-up for the San Marino and Montenegro qualifiers would have come as a shock.

It's also fair to say that the 34-year-old's fitness has been handled extremely well by Manchester United's medical staff this season, hence it was understandable that the club expressed concerns about him playing two unexpected games for England during a period when he was due to rest.

Ferdinand has not come out of this smelling of roses, but he's not the first person to put his fitness before his international career, and he won't be the last.

Talent deserves to get rich

There was a story on the back page of the Sunday Mirror declaring that football has 'gone mad' because of the size of the contract 17-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek is on at Chelsea.

His two-and-a-half-year deal is said to be worth £1.7million in wages, signing-on fees, loyalty payments and allowances, a figure which understandably raises eyebrows among those outside of football.

However, it is not unusual for top clubs' most talented youngsters to be on such eye-popping amounts - in Loftus-Cheek's case, Chelsea were fighting off interest from Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona - and nor should anyone be offended by it.

Top-flight football clubs earn an extortionate amount of money each season, and surely a good proportion of that money should be going to the people that make the brand and the product what it is - the players.

Would those that complain about players' salaries rather more money went to the likes of Roman Abramovich, Sheikh Mansour and the Glazers?

The strangest thing about that article in the Sunday Mirror was that surprise was expressed amount the money earned by the player, Loftus-Cheek, but not the £1.3million an agent was attempting to claim for his part in allegedly brokering the deal.

Of all the people that make money out of football, the players should be the ones supporters have least issue with. At least they give something back.

It is also noticeable that complaints are not heard about the riches earned by golfers, tennis stars or Formula One drivers.

Of the world's top 10 richest sports stars, only three - Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham - are footballers. Yet when was the last time you heard anyone complain about the salary of golfers Tiger Woods (#1) and Phil Mickelson (#5), tennis star Roger Federer (#4) or F1's Michael Schumacher (#10)?

Nobody should complain about the money earned by the world's best footballers, but instead about the money siphoned away by all those faceless people that give nothing back to the game whatsoever.

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