It now resonates in people’s minds as a catchy chorus. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the entire planet, it shattered many frameworks, established and accepted ways of life. The next world has remained the same for some, not for others in our society. Also in football things change when the tongues are loosened.
While the time has come for the multiplication of competitions and encounters, between reform of the Champions League, the addition of a new European Cup (the Europa League conference) and the idea of a World Cup every two years, a report by Fifpro, the union of professional football players around the world, reminds us that it was time to slow down and think about the mental and physical health of players. Vice President of the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP), and co-author of the report alongside Fifpro, David Terrier spoke on this topic to Franceinfo: sports.
Franceinfo: sport: Why are you drawing this alarm signal about the overload of the calendar among professional football players?
David Terrier: The proposal to hold a World Cup every two years was the reason. Enough is enough ! The players are already against it. This is not possible, because adding dates comes at a cost. And the goal is purely financial. We sent a letter to Gianni Infantino, signed by the captains of all the French Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs, asking that the calendars be redesigned as it was no longer tenable. This report is the logical next step.
How do you explain that the players are finally expressing themselves?
Claude Makélélé explained that in his day, when he felt wear and tear coming on, he went to his coach to ask him to breathe, but he felt he wouldn’t lose his place by asking. Which is not the case for many. Languages also took a long time because football is an environment where you should not show weakness. So we are quiet.
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What are the consequences of an overloaded schedule for players?
Take the example of Sadio Mane, the Liverpool striker, who plays against Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Sunday. He will finish his season with nearly 70 games (64 games played so far). And our experts have analyzed that after 55 matches, the physical and mental consequences are enormous. It is not yet known whether this will lead to an early career end, or whether they will pay afterwards. There is less recovery than before as the search for performance continues.
Are all players affected?
Each in their own way. The DTN conducted an investigation and revealed that 90% of each club’s playing time was played by an average of 16 players. But this poses a big problem because players under contract don’t even play matches in competition. When some will play everything, others will be banned and think they are useless. They came to football because it was a passion and they are disgusted by these methods. Trading is also developing strongly in France and favors these methods.
Is Ligue 1 at risk?
This schedule overload will also have an impact on the business. The chains also buy the rights because there are foreign stars; however, if the leagues multiply, for example, the South Americans will miss 4-5 games over 38 days, as they need three days to return from the roster.
“What will Amazon or Canal+ say if a Mbappe only plays Ligue 1 matches at 50% capacity because he saves himself for the World Cup every two years or the Champions League?”David Terrier, Vice-President of the UNFP
at Franceinfo: sports
What are the solutions?
The summer and winter break is essential. Not only for the physical but also for the mental of the player. And if you have a week off, but you’re South American, you’ve already lost a total of two days on the plane. Sometimes people can’t get in. I had spoken to Maxwell a few years ago when he was playing at PSG. He explained to me that they had knocked out Chelsea in the round of 16 of one season (2016) because the London players had burned out after Boxing Day and they had not been able to digest it.
How do you come to an agreement with FIFA and UEFA?
We don’t attack them, it’s not a court, we come up with factual elements. We brought in players, coaches and even a manager, Olivier Létang [Le président de Lille] who intervened in favor of a revision of the calendars. FIFA puts the dates on a calendar. Then UEFA puts its own spin on it and says to us: ‘Make it easy for everyone else’. That’s not how we work! Everything must be done in harmony. We need to think together about tomorrow’s football.