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Vivianne Miedema: Arsenal star calls for more protection and says FIFA and UEFA must listen to players – Sky Sports

Vivianne Miedema is back after being granted time off last month, saying she needed to “switch off” due to her workload in recent seasons
Wednesday 7 December 2022 20:00, UK
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Arsenal and Netherlands star Vivianne Miedema says women’s players need better protection and has urged FIFA and UEFA to start listening to her and other players over the need to improve management around their workloads.
Miedema took a break from football last month, saying the “non-stop” nature of her schedule over recent years meant she needed to “switch off”.
Arsenal have suffered a number of injuries this season with Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza only just returning from lengthy absences, while Beth Mead recently suffered an ACL injury that will keep her out for a significant period of time.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes recently expressed her concern at the demands being placed on players and when asked for her thoughts on the topic, Miedema said: “I think if you look at women’s football and men’s football in general right now, the load on us players is too high.
“It’s something players are now starting to speak about. We’ve had Rafa and Leah out for the first half of the season because they’ve played the Euros and Copa America, and not had the time off.
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“We play three games a week right now which, if you look at facilities and circumstances, we’re not at the same level as the men’s game.
“We just need to start protecting the players because people come to the Emirates to see Leah, Kim Little and Beth [Mead] play.”
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Miedema highlighted the increased number of international windows and smaller squads at club level in women’s football compared to the men’s game as two of the biggest issues impacting players’ workloads.
The 26-year-old – who has over 100 caps for the Netherlands – said: “As a player, you want to be playing in the big tournaments.
“The biggest difference is we have more international windows than the men have. We also play the Olympics with our A team instead of the U23s. I think that’s something FIFA and UEFA need to start looking at.
“In women’s football, we also don’t have the same sorts of numbers within a squad. Man City’s men’s team probably has 22, 23 full-time, amazing players. This year, I think we’ve got 18,19 players that are capable of being in the squad for us.
“They need to start listening to us players instead of making the decisions off money or popularity. We need to try to come to a solution with the players and associations together.”
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After a run of five games without a goal or assist before her time off, Miedema has returned with a bang to the Arsenal side by scoring twice, and will hope to continue her resurgence against Aston Villa in the WSL on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
As well as the number of matches she has been required to play over recent seasons, the forward said the lingering effects of Covid – which she contracted during the Euros last summer – contributed to her need for a break, and she thanked her coaches for granting her request.
“I had Covid during the Euros which I’d not really fully recovered from,” explained Miedema. “Some people go through it with a cold but I was in my bed for 10 days. I had a high fever and I’ve been really sick from it, so I needed some time to recover.
“In the beginning of the season, you get through it because you’re on auto-pilot almost. Then I missed the second national period through illness again and I spoke to Jonas [Eidevall, Arsenal manager] about getting a rest and managing my minutes.
“I just didn’t feel mentally or physically ready to actually play. I think you could see that in the way I was playing. I didn’t enjoy my football at that moment and the moment you wake up in the morning not wanting to go in, that’s the moment you need to make a switch.
“I was really happy my coaches granted me the time off and I could get away for two weeks.”
Miedema says her absence has helped the game to become “easy” for her again, while she hopes the steps she took will help others needing time away from football to feel able to do so.
“I hope me taking the time off will help players to feel comfortable enough to ask for that break and they don’t feel ashamed for taking it,” she said.
“It’s been so non-stop over the last couple of years that you just need to switch off. I used the time away to go to the other side of the world but still trained every day. I used that period of time to actually get myself fit.
“That’s the biggest difference I feel on the pitch right now – I feel physically a lot fitter and I think you can see that in the games. The game’s become easy again for me.”
Arsenal boss Eidevall shares Miedema’s concerns around the number of games on the schedule, adding the “spike” in popularity women’s football has enjoyed may have placed too much of a physical demand on the players.
“I think with the growth of women’s football, the amount of games has increased, especially the amount of competitive games,” explained Eidevall. “Maybe that spike has been too sharp in terms of what the players can handle.”
The Swede added that he believes solutions can be found within academy football, saying: “We want to come to a place where we are playing even more games and are spreading them to an even bigger and wider audience, but the steps in order to do that have to involve talent development.
“We cannot only focus on the top of the pyramid. The obligation we have is to say, ‘how do we build academy systems that develop more professional female football players?’
“We can have more players that are able to play more games and have a better foundation when they step up to be a professional to handle the demands.
“There’s a lot of stakeholders here that need to work together in order to increase the number of very good football players.”
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