The Hong Kong Football Association will celebrate its centenary next Tuesday with a high-profile game against Argentina, while on the same night Japan will take on Brazil in Singapore. Now, neither of these games will have any impact on qualification for a major tournament or even change the FIFA rankings but it will give football fans in the region a chance to see some of the world’s best players in action – even if these games are only friendlies. Now of course we use the word friendly to show that there is no competitive edge involved in the match; meaning that tackling will not be as tough as a regular game, that fans and players will show more respect to each other and that the pace of the game will not be anywhere near as frenetic as normal.
This leads to the question of why bother having international friendlies at all? Well, managers can experiment with their line-up and blood new players to see how they get on at international level. Sometimes a win against a top side in a friendly can boost the confidence of the team, while these games can also help squads refine their tactics and playing styles. Of course, matches like the ones taking place in Asia over the weekend (Brazil and Argentina will also face each other in Beijing on Saturday) can be lucrative for the teams involved as stadiums will sell out and TV rights can be sold.
Nevertheless, not everyone is in favour of these types of matches as their very nature – that they are non-competitive – means that fans are simply not interested. Club managers are also wary that their star players may return either injured or tired from international duty – remember, it is a 13 hour flight from Hong Kong to London, while the media often dub these games ‘meaningless friendlies’ and often call for them to be scrapped.
Of course, none of this will matter to those who have bought tickets (and all games are sold out) to see Neymar, Messi and Honda all play in Singapore, Beijing and Hong Kong over the next few days and for them these games are far from meaningless.
centenary: 100 years
high-profile game: A prestigious, many people are interested
Japan will take on Brazil: Japan will face/play against Brazil
frenetic: Played at a fast pace; a high tempo
blood new players: To play inexperienced players; to try out new players
boost: Raise or improve
lucrative: These games can make lots of money
are also wary: Worried about
to be scrapped: To be stopped