UEFA announced today, Thursday March 27th, that it will launch a so-called Nations League in 2018. FIFPro – the world footballers association – respects the aim to improve the quality of international football, but is also concerned about the added strain it will place on the world’s elite players.
UEFA says it aims to improve the quality and standard of international football by introducing the Nations League. Though the exact format has not been finalised and is subject to further discussion, the general idea is to divide the 54 UEFA national teams into groups according to co-efficient rankings. Therefore these are matches between teams with more or less the same rankings.
One of the conditions is that there will be no increase in the amount of international matches on the International Match Calendar. Mostly friendly matches will be replaced by competitive matches for the Nations League. By doing this, UEFA and its member associations expect to improve the quality and standing of national team football.
FIFPro appreciates the efforts of UEFA and its members to schedule more competitive matches. All football fans should welcome the increase of quality matches.
FIFPro does have some concerns. More competitive matches will also increase the strain on the players. “It should be clear that there is a difference in a friendly match and a competitive match”, explains FIFPro Director of Player Services, Tijs Tummers. “As we understand, the Nations League will be another prestigious competition. As a consequence, that implies an increase in the workload for the group of top players.”
Coaches often use friendly matches to introduce young, new players to their squads, to give them a first taste of international football. Because of that, coaches can rest their top stars by not playing them the full ninety minutes or by not playing them at all. “That will change when there is more at stake”, Tummers foresees.
In FIFPro’s opinion, there is no real problem with the current friendly matches, says Tummers: “Mostly, the countries organise a friendly against an opponent of equal quality. What should be thought over is the amount of qualifying matches between teams that have an enormous gap in talent level. Very often you see a match between nations that are more than 100 places separated from each other on the FIFA rankings. Even with the new Nations League, those matches will remain on the International Match Calendar.”
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