Roberto Carlos and Geremi call on new match calendar to avoid risking players’ health

  • Players say reduction in travel needed for optimum performance

  • Players giving feedback as part of consultation process on football’s future

  • All stakeholder input being welcomed by FIFA for new match calendar, from 2024

Roberto Carlos and Geremi have called on the new international match calendar to protect the players, reduce their travels and allow them to optimise their performance levels for both club and national team football, as part of FIFA’s wide-ranging consultation process on football’s future.

As the main protagonists in the sport, experienced players have been giving their feedback through a Technical Advisory Group with FIFA World Cup™ winner Roberto Carlos and former Cameroon international Geremi agreeing that reducing the number of trips and increasing the recovery time for players is the key to a healthier sport.

“I remember when I used to play, we would have a game on a Sunday, then we would travel on that Sunday evening, we would play again on Wednesday, get back on Friday and play on Saturday or Sunday,” FIFA World Cup 2002 winner Roberto Carlos explained. “The players’ performance starts to drop automatically as you don’t have any time to rest. As for the travel: I’d leave Madrid, for example and travel to São Paulo, Buenos Aires or Caracas in Venezuela and wouldn’t have any recovery time.

DOHA, QATAR - SEPTEMBER 09: Roberto Carlos during the FIFA Technical Advisory Group on the future of men’s football sessions on September 9, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Harold Cunningham - FIFA)

“This idea reduces the number of trips as you would have the qualifying stages done in one month. So, you would have the time to train, play well, rest and get back to your club. There are too many consecutive matches and then you add the travel and the fatigue and it’s very complex. I think that football will improve a lot once this problem gets sorted.”

Geremi – a veteran of 118 international appearances for Cameroon – added that constantly acclimatising to new environments throughout the year is preventing players from being at their best.

“Most African players play for European clubs,” said Geremi. “So, when they participate in international competitions they have to travel from Europe to Africa. I can tell you that it’s very tiring. When you travel from Europe in winter, it’s 40 degrees in Africa. There’s a contrast there and, naturally, that has an impact in terms of performance, because you are not at 100 per cent.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JULY 13: FIFA Legend Ntijap Geremi following The Football of Tomorrow - Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) at HoF on July 13, 2021 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA)

“It also has an impact in terms of your sporting career because it reduces the number of years that you can play in the national team,” he continued. “It’s not easy at all for an African footballer – or an Asian, South American or American footballer – to play in Europe at club level and play for their country too. So, it’s important that we find a solution to avoid putting players and their health at risk.”

Following invitations to stakeholders, including all confederations, at the beginning of September, discussions are being organised in the coming weeks.

FIFA has also invited its member associations to a first online summit on 30 September 2021. This is one of several opportunities to establish a constructive and open debate, at a global and regional level, over the coming months.