Soccer is an incredibly competitive sport. It’s not uncommon to see fans arguing over the tiniest of details.
Fans will live and die by the club they support, adamant that their teams’ mascot could beat up a rival side’s mascot, even if there is a giant smiling Bee, and the other is a Lion.
Everything in modern football is part of the competition, with every area of the game scrutinised and paraded as why one team is great and all the others suck.
So hearing the term ‘friendly’ in relation to Soccer is somewhat confusing.
You can’t have a game with your mates down the local park without somebody getting in a strop, so how can a match between two professional sides with avid fans ever be a ‘Friendly’ encounter?
Soccer has long proven that there needn’t be anything on the line for a game to be competitive.
What Is A Friendly?
A friendly is simply a game organised in between seasons, or in the middle of multiple week breaks in league competition. Two sides m
face each other in a one off match against with nothing but pride on the line.
They have been played since the very dawn of Soccer, predating tournament play, with friendlies at one point being the only way to play other teams before the formation of the first competitions and regulatory bodies.
The non-competitive nature of the game, is why they are called friendlies.
Why Do Teams Play Friendlies?
Friendlies play a vital role in pre-season preparation.
By playing one off exhibition matches, teams that have had months off from competitive football can be eased back into playing, helping them build up match fitness, shaking off any rust.
It’s expected that due to the non-competitive nature of these games, that players will be at lower injury risk as they build up their fitness for the next season.
Some teams even host friendly cups to help provide a slightly more competitive pre-season experience, that still gives players room to ease into the intensity of top-level Soccer.
Arsenal’s Emirates Cup has always been among the most famous of pre-season friendly tournaments, often enticing other top European clubs, such as PSG and AC Milan to join.
Friendlies also help managers bed in new signings while also giving youth players a chance to prove themselves. They can be a practice ground to try out new tactics, or even entirely new ways of playing.
It can be hard for teams and managers to gauge how ready they are for the upcoming seasons’ challenges when all they can go off of is how they are playing in training alone.
Experience and practice against other teams is integral, and without it, it would take weeks, even months to get up to speed with sides that have played pre-season friendlies.
The 6 or so weeks off at the end of a season has a huge impact on players’ fitness and sharpness. It can take one injured player many games to get back up to speed even after fully recovering from a 6 week injury.
When the whole squad has been out 6-weeks, getting match experience is an absolute necessity.