Vivianne Miedema is concerned about the workload on soccer players as the number of injuries grows.
An increasing number of players have suffered season-ending injuries this year, with the majority of them being ACL tears. That list includes Alexia Putellas, Christen Press, and now, England’s Beth Mead.
In her column for Dutch newspaper AD, Miedema confirmed that Mead will likely miss next summer’s World Cup. She also attributes the increase of injuries to a lack of rest.
“I see a worrying pattern. The playing calendar for both the women and the men is simply too full,” she wrote. “Actually, it’s just a shame. We are in a world that goes on and on and there are few players who say anything about it. I do. We go completely crazy with the tax on football players and football players.
“I can already envisage some of the reactions to this column, you know. ‘We have the best profession in the world, we earn a lot of money and we don’t have to complain. Just play football.'”
As women’s soccer grows in popularity and its standards, the demands on female players continue to increase. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 and the UEFA Women’s European Championships to 2022 means that European players could carry a workload of playing in five summer tournaments in five straight years.
There are also more games, as leagues like the WCL have introduced group stages and the NWSL has expanded both by teams and games.
Such a packed schedule led to Miedema taking a step back at the beginning of November, she says, explaining her recent absence in her column.
“At the beginning of this month I deliberately took a step back,” she continued. “I felt that my body and mind were ready for a rest. For people who do not work in top sport, that will sound strange. People who do work in our world will understand it better, but many players don’t feel that freedom to stand up for themselves or just want to continue in their tunnel.”
She says that Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall “was initially surprised” by the request but found himself in agreement with one of his star players.
“I spent a large part of the European Championship last summer in my hotel room with Covid-19. After that, the preparation for the season started almost immediately,” she said. “I went through in one go and I paid the price for that. I had to get out.”
Speaking after Arsenal’s match on Thursday, Eidevall spoke about striking a balance. While Miedema has since returned, scoring the tying goal in Arsenal’s draw with Juventus, the issue of scheduling remains.
“There is always the balance between freshness and having continuity in the training and playing,” he said postgame. “We need to strike that balance. You can see that Viv was fighting really hard today with the team on the pitch.”
Player health should be paramount, Eidevall said, noting that there should be protected periods for players in which there are no club or international games played.
“I really think we need to consider in women’s football when we look at the calendar, how we can put the players health first. They are constantly going between really competitive games at club level, onto international level. It has taken a lot of my time thinking about it because my gut says that we are not creating something that is good for the players.
“At the moment there are players who get barely any vacation and it’s consecutive, year after year after year. It’s great if we’re going to have more competitive games but let’s have a calendar that allows players to recover so we can keep the quality too.”