The international players’ union FIFPRO criticizes the schedule. Due to the World Cup at the unusual date, the stress on the players is significantly greater and increases the risk of injury. Germany is far ahead when it comes to the load – especially Antonio Rüdiger.
There are only seven days between the last Bundesliga game of 2022 and the start of the World Cup. On Sunday, November 13th, the Bundesliga bid farewell to a longer break for the World Cup and the winter break with the game between SC Freiburg and 1. FC Union Berlin. The World Cup kicks off with the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday 20th November 2022.
According to the international players’ union, the usual World Cup dates in June and July saw an average of 31 days without a competitive game. “This increases the risk of muscle injuries and mental stress,” says FIFPRO. Even after the tournament, some players only had eight days before their clubs continued – it was an average of 37 days for the usual summer date of the World Cup.
Germany one of the most stressed teams
The Premier League will play again with all the top teams just around a week after the World Cup final on Boxing Day. In Spain it continues on New Year’s Eve, in Italy on January 4, 2023. The Bundesliga is an exception and only resumes operations around five weeks after the tournament. Nevertheless, the German team remains one of the most stressed of the tournament.
FIFPRO let in a study count the minutes played by each player of each squad. Result: After Brazil and Portugal, the German squad has the third highest workload of the 32 teams. The German players were active for almost 30,000 minutes from the start of the season until the end of October, so a few minutes from November are still missing from this calculation.
Out of the top 15 in the FIFA World Ranking, Spain, Uruguay and Denmark have the lowest burden. Comparing all teams, the players from Qatar’s squad were the least on the pitch: 2,150 minutes. There are clear differences between the continents: players in European clubs have to play the most minutes ahead of South America, while Asia has the fewest behind Africa.
Four players up front: van Dijk, Cancelo, Mané and Rüdiger
According to the study, Dutchman Virgil van Dijk played the most minutes from July 2021 to October 2022: 7,597. Portugal’s Joao Cancelo (Manchester City) with 7,347 minutes and Senegal’s Sadio Mané (Liverpool FC/Bayern Munich) with 7,266 minutes follow in the other places. Mané will miss Senegal’s first World Cup games injured.
Antonio Rüdiger is the first German player in this list in fourth place. He played 7,211 minutes for the DFB team as well as for Chelsea and Real Madrid, which corresponds to about 80 games over 90 minutes.
In addition, there are different loads for players due to travel. In international matches, players from European leagues but who come from non-European countries have long distances to cover. South Korea’s Heung-Min Son from Tottenham Hotspur traveled almost 150,000 kilometers between July 2021 and October 2022. For Brazil’s Vinicius Junior, who plays for Real Madrid, the study even calculates more than 200,000 kilometers.
Deadline in winter was financially sweetened for stakeholders
The players benefit from the World Cup. Your market value can increase by participating, and there are also bonuses to be earned. However, the date is unfavorable for you and everyone else involved. The national leagues and the clubs have to interrupt their season in an unusual way. The World Cup, which FIFA had announced for the summer of 2022, could not be held in the summer of 2022 due to climatic conditions.
The fact that the unusual date in November and December was approved was also due to the money. In March 2015, FIFA decided to triple release fees to clubs for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups compared to the 2014 World Cup. This money goes to players who go to the World Cup. Shortly before, the relocation of the tournament had been announced. Georg Pangl, former head of the Austrian Bundesliga and Secretary General of the European League Association until the end of 2019, sees a clear connection in this. “Appointment against coal. Again, a smart business for the big clubs,” he told the sports show.
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FIFPRO: “Everyone should readjust their priorities”
Players and their representatives hardly had a say. But they should work now. FIFPRO consultant Darren Burgess speaks of one in the union statement “really high risk of injury”. This is especially true for the top players who will reach the final stages of the tournament.
Simon Colosimo, deputy general secretary of FIFPRO, qualified despite the pressure: “I have no doubt that despite the challenging circumstances, every team will put on a great show at the World Cup.” Going forward, however, all professional football stakeholders should realign their priorities to ensure “that players can perform at their best at key moments in their careers”.