London (AFP) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino vowed player welfare will be a top priority as the world governing body reshapes the international fixture schedule.
FIFA’s proposal for a biennial World Cup drew widespread criticism last year amid concern over burn-out due to the increased demands placed on players.
Infantino discussed the issue in Manchester on Thursday after accepting an invitation from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) to meet leading players and union representatives.
The meeting also included Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Juan Mata, PFA chief executive Maheta Molango and FIFA chief of global football development Arsene Wenger.
“It was really a great meeting. I was very happy that the players reached out to us, to me in particular, because we want really to listen to everyone,” Infantino said.
“The players are crucial when it comes to the game. Of course, we need to care about the players, we want to protect the players and, in order to know really what their concerns are, we need to talk to them directly.
“At the end of the day what we want for men’s and women’s football is that the players can perform at their best, not only in one competition but in all the competitions they have to play.
“The women and the men are facing the same issue – go back and forth, back and forth and play a competition, a finals tournament and then go back and immediately after you go somewhere in another part of the world.
“We need to bring some more coordination in the international match calendar.”
Infantino acknowledged the game has changed considerably since the current international calendar was drawn up, with more players now playing away from their home countries, requiring much more travel.
“Times have changed, globalisation is coming in. In England you have players from 100 nationalities playing the professional game,” he said.
“This was not the case many years ago and the calendar is still the same, so we need to adapt, we need to do something.
Infantino did admit the potential change from a World Cup every four years to a biennial event was not the main issue discussed at the Manchester meeting.
“The biennial World Cup was mentioned as well. There are different views, but we didn’t seek any sort of opinion in terms of are you in favour, are you against. It was not the main topic,” he said.
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