The world players’ union, FIFPRO is advocating for compulsory breaks for footballers across the world to prevent them from burning out.
According to a workload report carried out in the 2020-2021 season, top professional men’s footballers across the world play at least 45 minutes in matches less than five days apart. They played thirds of their minutes in a season in the ‘critical zone’ (where they are more susceptible to injury).
In the process of preparing the report, the researchers took a sample of 265 male players from 44 leagues between June 2018 and August 2021. They analyzed the data from about 40,000 appearances of the 265 players.
In the 2020-2021 season, players who play for both club and country played 67 percent of their minutes during the critical zone, a 5 percent increase from the previous two seasons.
In reaction to this, FIFPRO believes that the length of a player’s career could be affected by the cumulative exposure to back-to-back action. Such a player has a very high risk of sustaining a career-ending injury, according to the union.
Hence, to put that in check, FIFPRO has proposed that footballers across the world should miss a football match after every three matches in the critical zone.
If league bodies across the world especially in Europe accept the proposal, footballers could miss a maximum of eight matches per season for both club and country.
Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United is an example of a player playing too many games
The FIFPRO workload report highlighted Manchester United attacking midfielder, Bruno Fernandes, as one of the players that constantly made at least 45 minutes appearance in matches less than five days apart during the critical zone.
The 27-year-old Portuguese footballer joined Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon on January 29, 2020, for a transfer fee worth €63 million.
Since then, Fernandes has played 90 times in all competitions for the Premier League club in which he has scored 44 goals and provided 28 assists. He is also a prominent figure in Portugal’s national team and hardly misses games.
According to FIFPRO, the share of minutes in the critical zone of the Portuguese footballer did not drop more than 68 percent and was close to 100 percent on multiple occasions between November 2020 and April 2021.
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What does FIFPRO want?
To safeguard the health of the footballers, FIFPRO has agreed with FIFA to allow footballers to get at least 25 days of rest after the summer tournament.
The union’s report is urging for a compulsory 28-day off-season break and a 14-day mid-season break for players across the world.
“The data shows we must release pressure on players at the top end of the game and this report provides new research why we need regulation and enforcement mechanisms to protect players”, FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said.
“These are the type of solutions that must be at the top of the agenda whenever we discuss the development of the match calendar. It’s time to make player health and performance a priority…
“It is far less problematic to do it this way than to wait for the muscle tear to come, and then the player is out six weeks and nobody sees them, which ultimately harms the competitions and the fan experience more.”