The global players’ union FIFPRO said the World Cup should never again be reduced to a November-December window, and that Rafael VaraneThe international retirement of should ring alarm bells about the sweltering calendar of the sport.
FIFPRO published its World Cup 2022 Post-Tournament Review and Player Survey on Thursday, saying the results confirmed its fears about players’ physical and mental fatigue and risk of injury.
Varane helped France reach the World Cup final, then announced on February 3 that he was ending his international career due to a “suffocating” schedule.
“(Varane’s) decision should really make the competition organizers nervous, because ultimately it’s the players who are on the field creating the game, they’re creating the product that everybody sells… and they’re the players who fans come to watch,” FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said during a video conference on Tuesday.
“And if they’re making career decisions of such a drastic nature, based on their physical and mental health, caused by the pressure that’s on them, that’s what we’ve been warning about.”
Varane had just eight days between the World Cup final and his first game back for his club, Manchester United.
Sixty-four World Cup players were surveyed, and the lack of preparation and recovery time, and the resulting increased health risks, were the key findings. Only 11% of players surveyed were in favor of the November/December World Cup schedule.
Baer-Hoffman said a repeat of 2022 would be unacceptable.
“If you want to go back to looking for a winter World Cup, you need (the leagues) to completely change their calendar and provide proper training and recovery time before and after the tournament,” he said. “(It’s) unlikely they’d agree to that.”
Eighty-six percent of players want at least 14 days of preparation time, 61% would like between 14 and 28 days of recovery time after the World Cup.
The condensed schedule meant that the pre-World Cup turnaround for many European-based players was just six or seven days. Some players were unable to recover from lingering injuries to play in Qatar.
“Which is quite unfortunate (during) the pinnacle of their careers,” said Michael Leahy, FIFPRO’s policy adviser.
Premier League players logged the most minutes in the World Cup, while Manchester City logged the most minutes of any team and Barcelona had the most players (17) in the tournament.
The impact of stoppage time was also significant. The players ran almost 1.6 extra kilometers during the average 11.6 minutes of added time.