‘Everything is at risk’
The World Cup in Australia and New Zealand begins in just under two months, but the Orange women’s preparation is still full of question marks. Cause is a conflict between FIFA and the major clubs, over the crowded playing calendar in 2024.
“That playing calendar has caused irritation with the big international clubs,” knows Orange national team coach Andries Jonker, who unveiled his 30-man preliminary squad today. “As a signal, they don’t want to give up the players on June 19, but on June 23.”
Jonker: ‘Clubs want to cede players four days later, that breaks preparation’
“All the national teams had agreed that it would be June 19. This breaks the whole preparation,” Jonker said.
FIFA’s interlocutor in the conflict is the European Club Association, which unites 42 clubs in women’s soccer. From the Netherlands, champion Ajax is affiliated with the ECA.
And then there is also a top international club (Jonker: “It’s not for me to say which one”) demanding compensation for giving up its players until July 10. If the unions do not pay, the players will not join the national team until July 10.
Does the Orange plan to pay? “That’s not up to the coach, it’s up to the management,” Jonker said. “Jan Dirk van der Zee, Nigel de Jong and Gijs de Jong have to deal with this at the international level.”
Clubs are outraged about next season’s playing calendar. It is overcrowded with the Olympics. Example: on May 24 is the Champions League final and right after that (May 27 to June 4) is an international period. And shortly before the Games (July 25 through August 10) another international period is scheduled.
‘Everything at risk’
A preparation four days shorter, you might think: what difference does it make? But for Jonker, June 19 or 23 does make a big difference. “We plan to play a practice game with a boys’ team on June 25. We can’t do that when the players are only two days into the preparation.”
In that match, Jonker wants all his players to play 45 minutes. To build up to 60 minutes and 90 minutes of playing time in the following internationals.
“It creates question marks in a lot of areas,” the national coach said. “How and with whom will we train? Who are we playing against? Do we really need that many staff and hotel rooms? Are the TV contracts still right for the practice internationals? Everything is on the line now.”
Still, Jonker does understand the clubs. Because of the many matches, overuse is a major issue in women’s soccer. Several top players recently suffered serious (cruciate ligament) injuries, presumably due to the overload of matches.
‘June 19 is absolute minimum’
“We all want the players to run a good preparation. That helps them to be able to play through the whole summer of 2024,” said the national team coach of the Netherlands, which plays its first World Cup match against Portugal on July 23….
“Starting the preparation on June 19 was already the bare minimum. Because we also have to fly to the other side of the world. Every sportsman or sportswoman can’t do anything for a few days then. That’s why June 19 is really the minimum.”
We previously created this explainer about the many cruciate ligament injuries in women’s soccer and the role of the playing schedule in it.
Sports explainer: buckling knees in women’s soccer