‘We are athletes, not machines’: Packed fixtures affecting players’ mental health, Fifpro survey finds

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Tariq Lamptey in action against Tottenham’s Harry Kane (Nigel French/PA Images). (PA Wire)
Tariq Lamptey in action against Tottenham’s Harry Kane (Nigel French/PA Images). (PA Wire)

Packed fixture schedules are affecting the mental health of football players, a survey from the worldwide professional footballers union, Fifpro, has revealed.

Over 1,000 professional players took the survey and 40 percent said their mental health has been affected by the amount of games they were expected to play.

The survey’s foreword says players are “athletes, not machines” and asked expert opinions on their view of the schedules.

The organisation used specific players as examples of how much they played in a season. It showed that Manchester United captain Harry Maguire played 19 matches back-to-back with less than five days rest between each fixture, while Manchester City star Raheem Sterling has competed in at least 50 matches in seven of 11 seasons as a professional.

Over 70 per cent of the players who took the survey said back-to-back games should be limited to four and there should be a mandatory break after three.

Around 80 per cent of performance experts, including sports scientists, doctors and conditioning coaches, say the matches this season have impacted players mental health and lifestyle.

Inter Milan and Chile star Arturo Vidal told Fifpro about how travel can impact players. He said: “Long-distance international travel puts pressure on the health and performance of many players because of the sudden changes in climate and time zones.

“Some players have travelled more than 200,000 kilometres in the last three seasons – that’s like travelling around the world five times.”

And AS Nancy and Senegal player Saliou Ciss added: “It’s important to be aware that these journeys which, to tell the truth, I don’t make in optimum conditions worthy of a high-level athlete add to the fatigue. They take their toll on our bodies and sometimes sap the morale of even the most courageous of us.”

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