Kaka, expected to return to the Brazil side today against Iraq

Brazil play Iraq today in yet another meaningless friendly far from their own fans.

Holding international matches in neutral countries is part of a growing trend.

An American editor asked me why this was an issue.

I explained that national sides used to play in their national stadiums against other national teams in front of their own fans.

Maybe I am old, but I think that’s correct.  A national side shouldn’t be heading off to play at the home of the highest bidder or where it can make most money.

I wrote about this in detail here for Reuters.

While doing so I realised the trend was worse than I imagined.

I discovered that Ireland played Italy in Belgium and Oman in England. England played Brazil in Qatar and Italy in Switzerland. Argentina played Nigeria in Bangladesh and Venezuela in India. Argentina versus Venezuela in Calcutta!!!

This is a worrying issue for most teams but what makes it worse for Brazil, as opposed to European sides, is that the CBF does not halt the Brazilian league when the national side plays friendlies.

So players are taken from their clubs at the most important time of the season to fly 12 hours to play third-rate opposition in a meaningless game. It makes a mockery of the Brazilian championship. There were important games last night and Sao Paulo, Vasco, Botafogo and Santos all had to play without one of their top players.

Striker Neymar, for example, has played 15 times for Santos in the league this season. He has already played nine times for Brazil and is expected to feature against both Iraq today and against Japan in Wroclaw on Oct. 16.

It’s a ridiculous situation. Something needs to change and I don’t just mean adjusting the Brazilian league schedule to run at the same time as leagues in Europe.

Here I go being old again, but national sides shouldn’t be available for hire.