I am not ready to be overly enthusiastic yet, as it is still early in 2024 and I have a responsibility to focus on my performance on the field. However, it is crucial to begin the new year with proper intentions and address some issues that myself and other players have regarding the direction of women’s sports.
The world of football can still surprise me at times. The 2024 international match calendar was a shock for me and others. We will have to participate in consecutive summer tournaments, including the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the European Championship in 2022, and the World Cup in 2023. This year, some teams will be competing in the Olympics, but not all. Many of us saw this summer as a chance to free ourselves physically and mentally, but unfortunately, that is not the case.
There has been much discussion about the strenuousness of our schedules and the effect on athletes who do not have adequate preparation for the high number of matches. Despite this, we are still expected to compete in 50 to 60 matches, spread throughout the entire year. This decision-making process is concerning, to say the least. While I may be told that there were no other options, I strongly believe that a skilled problem solver can find a solution for any situation.
I am deeply affected by these issues because I have personally experienced their effects. While there are various factors that can lead to injuries, if players are overworked, not given sufficient time to rest and recover, and not provided with appropriate support to meet the physical and mental demands placed upon them, the risk to their health becomes significantly greater. Throughout my entire career, I had never suffered from injuries and consistently performed at my best, winning numerous trophies. However, in recent years, I have been unfortunate enough to experience a stress fracture that has greatly impacted my body. Despite this, few individuals were aware of the severity of my injury, its cause, and its potential long-term effects. Unfortunately, I have been unfairly labeled as “injury-prone”.
I am capable of getting injured, but I am also capable of having a great year. This is the objective I strive for every day, and I believe this is something that both myself and my teammates at Lyon have achieved together and individually over the last few months. The time of frequent injuries is now over for me. I am tired of being labeled and limited. There will always be doubt about the sustainability of my performance, but I have stopped wasting energy on responding to these doubts, and all players should do the same.
We are aware of our identity, current location, and our origins. Injuries play a significant role in the game, whether we like it or not, but they do not determine who we are. Female athletes deserve to have the necessary support and resources to continue performing well on the field.
Currently, there are numerous factors in different environments that cannot be attributed to players or their physical condition for the injuries they sustain. Engaging in any type of sport carries the risk of injury, however, our injuries do not define us. Our contributions to the field and the sport are what truly define us.
Creating a more competitive environment for players is crucial. While there is a lot of emphasis on the importance of research, not enough attention is given to how that research is implemented in the women’s football community to benefit all players. In order for the women’s game to thrive, it is essential to have players who are able to play consistently. However, this is currently a difficult task. I personally had to overcome significant challenges and seek out the right support and knowledge to recover from an injury, and I was fortunate to have a strong support system. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to such resources.
At a worldwide scale, players require assistance. There is a need for improved communication between players and governing bodies, as well as between clubs and federations. It is not beneficial to have conflicting methods of operation. While the implementation of a health-expert panel is a positive step, it becomes problematic when players are informed of international games to be played during the summer. This puts unnecessary strain on players both physically and mentally. The demands placed on players and their bodies are increasing, something that has been requested by many, yet the necessary resources to handle these demands are not yet available.
Can it be altered? I am optimistic that it can. We are incredibly fortunate to have careers as professional football players. In my opinion, it is one of the most fulfilling jobs in existence. However, luck alone does not guarantee intelligence. While there will always be larger problems to address globally, we can begin by taking care of those in our own community, laying the groundwork for us to contribute to greater causes. Football, along with other sports, has the potential to serve a much greater purpose.
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