Ben White’s decision to decline joining the England team indicates a change in his priorities towards club football. This was reported by Barney Ronay.

Ben White’s decision to decline joining the England team indicates a change in his priorities towards club football. This was reported by Barney Ronay.


Here it is, Generation Z in football mode worldwide. Some may be tempted to view Ben White’s rejection of an England invitation, just three months before Euro 2024, through a generational lens of worry.

Becoming vegan and having a moral relativistic mindset led to this situation. It all began with rejecting an opportunity to play for the England team, and it culminated in throwing soup at statues and refusing to attack a Russian machine gun position due to fears of causing a small offense.

The fact that White has chosen to exempt himself from national team duties in England is not as surprising as the lack of other players doing the same. Some may immediately point fingers at Gareth Southgate, seeing it as a management failure and a lack of team unity and motivation. However, it is more probable that this trend will continue in the future, to the point where the current era of agreement may be seen as a highly successful one.

One of Southgate’s first acts in the England job was to speak openly about the need to keep motivating players to want to come and do this. Scroll back down the decades and players have always ducked out of England squads, usually under cover of injury. Paul Scholes retired from England duty aged 29 because he just wasn’t enjoying it any more. Raheem Sterling missed a few squads not long before his ultimate dropping.

This time, neither White nor Southgate are playing games. The player communicated to his club beforehand that he did not want to be considered. Southgate has since publicly discussed the details of White’s rejection and emphasized that it was ultimately White’s choice. He also mentioned his efforts to persuade White to join the team.

It is important to clarify this matter for various reasons. In the current situation, White’s absence is a big setback for England in their weakest area. Despite Kyle Walker being the top choice for right-back, White’s performance has been equally impressive. He is more effective in attacking and has a great understanding with Bukayo Saka on that side. Additionally, White also has experience playing as a center-back. While he may not be a regular in this position currently, he still plays every week for the top team in the league, remains fit and agile, has good ball control, and brings a competitive edge. It is difficult to understand why he would not at least be considered alongside John Stones as an option for Harry Maguire, who lacks these qualities. In tournaments, even the smallest details can make a difference. Therefore, not having one of the few defenders consistently playing for a top club available to call upon is clearly not ideal.

Raheem Sterling at the 2022 World Cup quarter-final in Qatar

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This brings us back to the topic of responsibility and culpability. The influence Southgate holds over his team, the internal drive, and the collective team spirit have been sources of resilience. However, there is no clear prior instance of a potential top England player in their late 20s declining a spot in a year of tournaments. Why is this occurring currently?

The solution, as always, lies in the structure. Like any other part of the popular global entertainment industry, international football is affected by the pull of money and scheduling, as well as the shift from traditional calendars. When looking at the bigger picture, it is impressive that so many players are able to continue performing despite the physically demanding and exhausting nature of their elite careers, constantly exposed and under pressure 24 hours a day.

Rewording: The idea of changing needs and alliances is present, along with the opportunity for great wealth in club football. Previously, representing one’s country was a practical and sentimental decision. Receiving international caps brought in more money, higher prestige, and potential sponsorships.

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What about now? If we simplify everything to the basic idea, professional athletes are already well-compensated for their work, so is it really worth risking that by taking on a semi-voluntary ceremonial role every other summer? On one hand, we encourage players to give their all and play the game passionately, but on the other hand, maybe they shouldn’t. Ultimately, international soccer is mainly based on loyalty, routine, responsibility, and emotions. And as we all know, emotions can change easily.

At the moment, and with an upcoming summer tournament that looks appetizing, it seems strange for White to turn down. He could potentially return at a later date, maybe even after the summer if Southgate finds a replacement.

Unfortunately, his nonattendance serves as a reminder that things like international football are delicate and rely entirely on people’s desires. When these desires cease, so does the sport. Furthermore, it is a significant loss for the team which, despite its strong points, still has weaknesses, most notably the vacancy in central defense that the capable White could have filled.