The players’ union has warned that today’s star players are playing too many matches without getting enough rest, which puts them at risk of more injuries, greater mental stress and lower performance.
This stark message came on the day the global players union FIFPro released a report on the 2022 World Cup by its players workload monitoring team.
Based on a survey of 64 players who attended tournaments in November and December, nearly 9 out of 10 believed they didn’t have enough preparation time before the tournament, and half suffered or suffered an injury. I am afraid that I will On post-competition fatigue, he said one in five experienced “a significantly higher level of mental and emotional fatigue than normal at this point in the season”.
The report also shows how many games top stars are playing without the five-day rest period recommended by elite performance experts. In particular, Premier League players log a huge amount of consecutive games and total minutes. It’s already season.
England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane, for example, played more than 40 games from the start of pre-season in July to the end of January, playing 14 straight games in 47 days. We believe playing more than 55 games in a season will not sustain elite performance and increases the risk of injury and mental stress.
The report also cited the case of Manchester United French defender Raphael Varane.
In an interview with French media station Canal+ last month, Varane said:
“We’re overloading our schedules and playing non-stop. Now I feel like I’m suffocating and I feel like the players are devouring the guy.”
FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman says Varane’s decision should put the game’s bosses “on edge”, saying the 93-cap 2018 World Cup winner is “not the last” to prioritize clubs over countries. I warned you.
“Varane has made a clear decision to focus on club football. Doing both is not sustainable,” says Baer Hoffman. “Competition organizers need to worry about their products because they risk losing the best players.”
Maheta Morango, chief executive of England’s Professional Footballers’ Association, believes the report shows the “mental and emotional strain” many players are experiencing.
“Players feel like they’re ‘surviving’ from game to game instead of properly recovering, resting, and preparing,” says Morango.
“We have repeatedly said that we need to reset the soccer calendar, taking player health as a starting point. I am in a situation where I personally have to make a difficult decision about whether to cut my hair.
“They play too many games and rest too little, both during and between seasons. It’s not good for football when you’re hurt or injured.”
According to the players’ union, the underlying problem is what Beerhoffmann calls “calendar cannibalization,” in which clubs, leagues, federations and FIFA’s global governing bodies are all doing more for broadcasters, fans and sponsors. Eager to create a lot of content. So the key resource is time, and everyone is vying for a slot in their calendar.
The current international match calendar — the basic agreement between FIFA, the six continental confederations, the European Club Associations and FIFPro — is only valid until the end of 2024. , August/September, October, November — and correct dates for major international tournaments.
All other competitions must avoid this calendar, as FIFA insists international matches take precedence over club matches, with FIFA requiring a four-day release period before international matches It adds complexity. Continent. The club will only have to release the player to the national team two days before his friendlies, but most have been phased out in Europe since UEFA introduced his Nations League in 2018. increase.
This competition is a perfect illustration of the players’ union’s frustration that UEFA’s intentions were good – less meaningless friendly games.
In fact, UEFA has since decided to expand the Champions League from 2024-25, adding four clubs (from 32 to 36) and two additional group stage fixtures for each team, while FIFA has expanded to 32. Increased Men’s World Cup from competing nations. Last year, Qatar had 48 in its next tournament in 2026, increasing the number of games played from 64 to at least 80, possibly 104, and also moving forward with plans to replace the annual seven-team Club Worlds. A version of the cup with 32 teams participating every four years.
Had FIFA kept its plans for the biennial World Cup on track, the congestion would have been even worse.
“We’ve been talking about calendars, and it’s been very frustrating,” says Beerhoffman. “We are talking to the league, UEFA and FIFA, but there is no connection. The competition design takes precedence, the calendar is under pressure, and no one wants to give grounds. You said you wanted a month off, and I love it, what should I do?
“There are a lot of people around the table, but the problem is that it looks like there are 10 tables instead of just one.”
The decision to move last year’s World Cup out of its usual summer slot in the Northern Hemisphere is a case in point, as mid-season tournaments greatly disrupted the Europa League, which provides the majority of players attending the World Cup.
According to FIFPro research, only 1 in 10 players would like to repeat the experience. Because the compromise FIFA hit in the league was a shorter tournament with the same number of games as the previous year, but a much shorter preparation and recovery window for either. sides of it. Polish centre-back Kamil his Glik, for example, started Benevento’s league campaign in Italy’s Serie B just four days after his last game in Qatar.
But with Saudi Arabia eager to host the World Cup, perhaps as early as 2030, there is a realistic prospect that the global game will face this challenge again. Like its Gulf neighbor Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s climate also holds up in the northern hemisphere winter.
“We cannot afford to repeat what we have experienced,” says Baer-Hoffmann. “If you want to do the winter World Cup again, that’s fine, but you have to negotiate with the league and take a break for a couple of months. I’m very worried if that’s the path (FIFA) wants.”
But the lack of calendar consultation isn’t the only frustration for FIFPro. I am also angry that FIFA and the game’s legislative body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), continue to ignore requests to allow temporary concussion trials. Replacement.
FIFA and IFAB only allow competitions to try permanent concussion substitutions, where a team is given an additional substitution to use in the event of a suspected concussion.
The downside to this approach is that the decision to pull a player is made on the pitch in front of the thousands of fans in the stadium and many more watching at home. The substitute will give the team doctor 10-15 minutes to evaluate the players involved in a quiet room away from the action.
“I don’t understand the logic of the opposition[to a temporary stand-in],” says Beerhoffman. “It’s a departure from reality.
“Of course it would be better to eject a player when questions arise about the possibility of a concussion, but it just hasn’t happened and I don’t think any amount of education will change that. The pressure is too high.
“A temporary replacement is a safer option. It relieves those pressures. We’re not going to let this go.”
FIFPro said some leagues, including Major League Soccer and the Premier League, simply ignored FIFA/IFAB’s position and introduced temporary concussions as part of “corporate bargaining agreements” with players as a national health and safety rule. We believe that there is a possibility of introducing a substitute for It replaces that of the International Sports Federation.
Another potential problem is that FIFA wants all football to follow the lead by extending the break time to deal with wasted time. I agree but disappointed with the communication failure. Because it points out that extending the game as witnessed at the World Cup adds another 800 meters to the amount of running a typical athlete does. That’s his three extra games for the entire season.
“The announcement[at the IFAB’s AGM on Saturday]was a surprise,” says Baer-Hoffmann. “It was the same in Qatar, there was no real dialogue with us.
“Reducing time wasting is good for games and we support it, but if player behavior doesn’t change, we’ve added three games to our calendar. It may need to be phased in, with education of the people.The results are desirable, but they need to be negotiated and achieved in other ways without causing a chain reaction.”
(Photo above: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)