August 2 – The health of elite footballers is being put at risk by an increasingly overcrowded international calendar that gives them no chance to recover in time, according to their global union, FIFPRO.
‘At the Limit,’ a 40-page FIFPRO survey, recommends five-day breaks between matches, extra recovery time after long international flights, a two-week winter break and a mandatory summer break of at least four weeks.
FIFPRO also recommends exploring an annual match cap – limiting how many games one player can take part in each season, managing workloads based on individuals rather than squads.
“The international match calendar has become denser. The game is faster, more physical and more global than ever,” says the report. “Although the demands on players are increasing, their physical and psychological capacity has natural limits.”
The report also offers quotes from top managers and players.
“If we don’t learn to deal with our players in a better way,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, “we will kill the beautiful game. Without the player, the game is not a good one.”
FIFPRO collated data on 16 elite players and compared their workload over the last 12 months with medical science on health and performance capacity.
The report found some played almost 80 matches and travelled over 110,000km last season. Tottenham’s Son Heung-min and Liverpool duo Alisson Becker and Sadio Mane were among the players analysed.
FIFPRO said some players are struggling with “mental and physical strain”.
In the report Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini said players “need to be protected” while Anderlecht player-manager Vincent Kompany, the former Manchester City captain, called for “compulsory amounts of rest”.
FIFPRO general secretary Theo van Seggelen said the problem was acute.
“To meet the demands of the match calendar players are being repeatedly asked to play at their limit without sufficient rest and recovery. This means that they cannot perform at their best and, worse still, that some are struggling with sustained periods of mental and physical strain,” he wrote.
“Scientific research confirms that the health of top players is at risk because of today’s congested match schedule.”
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