With its four games in eleven days, the League of Nations is coming to put a heavy burden on the calendar of a “long and difficult season”, in the words of Kevin De Bruyne.
“It’s a crazy program and it’s going to kill our players! We cannot keep up this pace for long. Players need to breathe and rest to perform better and better in tournaments! They must rest!” The warning was issued on July 23, 2019 by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Football could not – in the words of the Catalan guru – maintain this pace for long, but for three years the pace has far from dropped, racing with a 2022 calendar tripled with an Africa of Nations Cup, a League of Nations and a World Cup.
For example, for the 2021-2022 season, Mohamed Salah played 69 games, including 55 for Liverpool and 14 for the Egyptian national team, with an average of 86.5 minutes of attendance. Sadio Mane has the same numbers and proportion, while Virgil Van Dijk, also from Liverpool, has only played 61 games but with 95.2 minutes of attendance! Last season, Real Madrid’s playing master Luka Modric had racked up 63 games in a row, including 24 in a row. Twenty-four matches in a row between the dates of September 3 and December 20, 2020 is four times more than the health advice! Between June 2018 and June 2022, Japan’s Maya Yoshida, defender of Sampdoria and captain of the national team, covered 318,000 km in 59 trips, eight times around the Earth.
54% of players get injured
All these figures have been provided by the professional players’ union FIFPro, which denounces the workload for football players. On May 26, he published a survey of 1055 players and 92 experts. Result of this survey: “Only 26% of players want to keep the international windows in their current state,” writes FIFPro.
Invented by the European Football Union (UEFA) four years ago, the League of Nations adds a few dates to a bountiful season. Switzerland played four matches between 2 and 12 June, four matches in 11 days. Under the same regime, Belgium international Kevin de Bruyne said all the good things he thought about this match: “For me, the League of Nations is not important. These are friendly matches. In addition, everyone has played a long and difficult season. Anyway, there’s no point in saying that we players want peace of mind, it wouldn’t change anything. On the field we will do what we have to do.”
The Champions League has announced its reform: in 2024, the flagship league of European, even world football, will offer 189 matches against 125 today.
On June 10, the National Union of Professional Footballers released a press release titled both provocative and alarming: “We finish the horses well,” which refers to this 1969 film, in which dancers dance to utter exhaustion during the Great Depression of the 1930s. . The French union members write: “The opinion is unanimous, the players are exhausted, exhausted by an endless season, increasingly frequent matches every three days and international periods – increasingly longer – which only aggravate the situation. When will international bodies? (FIFA and UEFA) will they think seriously about player health and make it a top priority? The lack of rest, recovery and physical and mental regeneration is distressing. In the FIFPro survey, 54% of players believe they have sustained injuries from physical and mental strain.
Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp summed up the situation in a sentence that becomes absurd: “I don’t want to sound like a complainer, but Mane’s season lasted 13 months. Have you ever heard of a year that lasts 13 months?”