Players union says football calendar is harming star players

“Although the demands on players are increasing, their physical and psychological capacity has natural limits,” said a report published by the players' union FIFPRO.

“It’s a crazy schedule and it’s going to kill our players,” said Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. (Representative Image)   -  Getty Images

Top players are being put at risk by an increasingly crowded international calendar that gives them no chance to recover from matches and travel, said their union, FIFPRO, in a report published Thursday.

‘At the Limit,’ a glossy 40-page document, builds on demands the union has long expressed. It wants players to have five-day breaks between matches, extra recovery time after long international flights, a two-week winter break and a summer off season of at least four weeks.

“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.”

READ | Messi, Ronaldo, Hazard shortlisted for Best FIFA Men's Player award

The report argues that science backs up its recommendations, without going into details. It also offers quotes 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.” Pep Guardiola of Manchester City agrees.

“It’s a crazy schedule and it’s going to kill our players,” said the Spaniard. “They have to rest.”

FIFPRO, which represents more than 65,000 players worldwide, said football could place a limit on how much and when each individual plays but schedule the same number of games.

“While the top few hundred players in the world are being drained by an overload of competitions, thousands of their colleagues are offered too few playing opportunities to shape a lasting career,” wrote Theo van Seggelen the FIFPro Secretary General.

FIFPRO surveyed 543 elite players. Some of them clocked up huge numbers of playing minutes and air miles.

ALSO READ | Guardiola, Klopp and Ellis lead nominees for Best FIFA Coach awards

The leading example is Heung-Min Son, the Tottenham and South Korea star, who last season helped his club reach the Champions League final and his country win gold at the Asian Games.

He played 78 games, 53 of them for Spurs. Of those, 72% were played on less than five days rest. Son flew 110,600 kilometres for international matches, a number that does include six competitive games on the European continent with Spurs.

“Global elite players are faced with match overload which threatens not only their sporting performance but also their health and sustainable career,” said the report.

“There are a limited number of elite athletes whose talents light up our sport. Their careers are short, intense and fragile.