FIFPRO, the world players’ union, is calling on compulsory breaks to combat burnout following the publication of a new report into the workload of 265 players from 44 leagues – and Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have been used as a case study into the added toll international travel is taking.
The report, which is based on data from 40,000 appearances made by the 265 players across the past three seasons, highlights that players who play for clubs in different continents to their international team are at added risk with Son spending a startling 12.5 days in the air since August 2018 despite the shutdown enforced by Covid-19.
FIFPRO said that the 29-year-old was on planes for 300 hours and travelled more than 223,000 km in comparison to Kane’s 123 hours of airtime for a distance of 86,000km. The South Korean star also crossed 204 time zones in comparison to Kane’s 64.
And while Son made 172 appearances for club and country in that time compared to Kane’s 159, the England captain had more minutes of action (14,051 compared to 13,576).
“The main difference is that whilst Kane’s England matches were all played within Europe, Son had to travel to Asia and other continents to play for South Korea,” FIFPRO said.
“Even though Son had fewer national team appearances, he still accumulated 2.5 times more kilometres during his trips than Kane. Even more alarming is that Son spent 300 hours (more than 12.5 days) in transit over the last three seasons, and this is only counting international, cross-border trips.”
The report added: “Excessive travel has a negative impact on player performance and wellbeing. And long-distance travel regularly includes crossing multiple time zones and extreme climate change, particularly when travelling from the north hemisphere to the south and vice versa.”
The report refers to quotes from a number of head coaches airing grievances around fatigue, including Thomas Tuchel’s reference to Chelsea being tired in a draw with Brighton in April. “We were clearly tired,” Tuchel said at the time. “We have had several travels and tough matches and we suffered a bit from the strong line-up at Wembley and the guys could not find their rhythm and structure for counterpressing and we tried to change the system which didn’t really well.”
The 265 players evaluated spent an average of 67% of their minutes on the pitch in back-to-back matches (defined as spending at least 45 minutes on the pitch in two games within five days) in 2020-21 which is a 6% rise compared to the previous two seasons.
The off-season is too short for many players. FIFPRO recommends that every player should have at least 28 days for an off-season and 14 days for an in-season break but the report says 45% of off-season intervals were shorter and 30% of in-season breaks were less than a fortnight.
“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,” the union’s 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.”
Source by Football London