Nelsen: Planning for travel and rest is crucial

7 Oct 2021
  • Former New Zealand star Ryan Nelsen believes players can perform at a high level when travel is managed

  • All Whites South Africa 2010 skipper also says World Cup growth is a motivation for smaller countries

  • Increasing global competitiveness is a key goal of FIFA President’s Vision 2020-2023

Former New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen says minimising the impact of long-distance travel should be a key consideration when the new international match calendar is reviewed.

A cultured and composed centre-back, Nelsen led New Zealand with distinction at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, where the All Whites famously remained undefeated during the group stage. South Africa 2010 was the pinnacle of an international career which stretched over 13 years, and also included the 2008 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament.

The All Whites’ qualification for South Africa 2010 saw football garner unprecedented coverage in New Zealand, a nation better known for its love of rugby. And Nelsen believes opening up opportunities for new nations to appear at a World Cup is critical to further global growth.

Based in England for much of his career – notably seven seasons at Premier League club Blackburn Rovers – Nelsen is more familiar with the challenges posed by long-distance travel than most.

“Going from New Zealand to where I was playing in England, I couldn’t get any further away,” Nelsen said. “You so badly want to play for your country in big tournaments and big games, so you make those sacrifices.

“But the sacrifices are on your body because as soon as you get back to your club, they pay your wages, so you’re expected to turn up and give everything and that drains you physically and mentally after a while.

“If we can somehow limit the number of kilometres or miles that players are travelling around the world, I think that will benefit everybody.”

POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 24: Ryan Nelsen of New Zealand is dejected after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group F match between Paraguay and New Zealand at Peter Mokaba Stadium on June 24, 2010 in Polokwane, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Nelsen added that allowing players the opportunity to perform at their peak is critical for fans. “You have to protect the players mentally and physically because the fans and everybody want to see them at their peak and at their pinnacle and giving everything they can. “If they’re spending a lot of time on planes, it is draining. Different time zones and things like that affect their productivity on the field and nobody wants that.”