In an already packed football schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing anyone needs or wants is pointless friendlies.
Yet FIFA have insisted that an extra international match be thrown into the schedule for fun, whether teams want it or not.
The vast majority of sides have been forced to take part in a friendly game during this break, to go with the two ‘competitive’ fixtures in the UEFA Nations League too. Those pointless games have led to Toni Kroos speaking out against UEFA and FIFA, while Premier League defenders Joe Gomez and Nathan Ake picked up injuries.
Gomez is now potentially due to miss the rest of the season with a serious knee injury, while Ake picked up a hamstring injury just 6 minutes into Holland’s 1-1 draw with Spain. Kroos’ comments came before the injuries but they still hold a lot of weight.
“Unfortunately we players don’t decide these things. We’re just puppets of FIFA and UEFA. If there were a players’ union we wouldn’t play in the Nations League or a Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. These competitions are intended to absorb everything financially, and squeeze players physically too. Everything doesn’t have to be more, faster, more money.“
Liverpool had their injury problems already and will now be without a key player in their squad during a tough season that is packed with games, through absolutely no fault of their own.
This comes after much talk about the substitution rule in the Premier League, where clubs decided to go against Europe and stick with just three substitutes per game instead of going up to five.
In the same way that FIFA have forced the Premier League to adapt their offside and handball rules this season to be in line with the rest of the continent, they should be putting player welfare at the top of their list and ensure everyone takes the five subs rule too.
They can ditch the friendlies too and show that Toni Kroos is wrong and they’re not interested in money over player welfare. Protect these players. Give them a break, physically and mentally. The extra few days a month without a game could prevent so much pain going forward.
FIFA need to take responsibility for the game they run. Look after the players during this crazy time, they’re humans before they’re footballers.