ANTOLIN Alcaraz insists international friendlies have a vital role to play in the footballing calendar and should be preserved at all costs.
The Wigan centre-back has been picking up the air miles over the past week, with Paraguay facing gruellling treks to Mexico and the USA.
Most club managers would probably see such trips as a waste of time at such a crucial stage of the season.
Alcaraz, though, doesn’t agree.
“No, I don’t see international breaks as being negative,” he told the Evening Post.
“Of course you are playing more games but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
“For me, it’s still a privilege to go overseas and play for my national team. And I don’t think it affects my ability to come back and do a good job for Wigan Athletic.
“Playing international football has to be the ambition for every player in the world.
“It’s the biggest honour you can have as a player and I want to do it for as long as possible.”
Alcaraz has established himself as a key figure in the Latics side since his arrival from Club Brugge last June.
His influence has been such that, if he were to suffer an injury on international duty, his absence could prove catastrophic to Wigan’s hopes of avoiding the drop.
But the 28-year-old believes it’s a risk worth taking.
“I appreciate it’s a worrying time for the gaffer, who is hoping none of his players get injured,” Alcaraz explained.
“But this is a risk you take in any football match.
“You can get injured at any time – in training or in a match – and you can’t be thinking about stuff like that.
“It can happen to anybody at any time. It’s part and parcel of being a footballer.
“I’ve got as much chance of getting injured playing for Wigan as I have for Paraguary. Fingers crossed I don’t get injured at all.”
The double-header with Mexico and the USA are part of Paraguay’s preparations for the 2011 Copa America, which will take place at the end of the season.
And Alcaraz – who’ll go up against Hugo Rodallega and Colombia in the group stages – admits it’s a huge incentive to ensure he remains in top form for Wigan.
“It’s like a mini World Cup for all footballers in South America – it’s such an important competition,” he added.
“We have a great group of players at the moment and hopefully we can do something. We had a great World Cup, and it’s carried on ever since.
“There is far more expectation on us after we did so well in South Africa, and everyone will be expecting us to do well in the Copa America at the end of the season.
“It will be difficult of course but we have to aim for something, and we are putting all our energies into preparing as well as we can.”