It’s amazing how many soccer games top players play, and on top of that, or due to that, how much these players have to travel to play these games. They log so many miles in the air. Especially all the Brazilian and Argentine players who ply their trade in Europe and have to shuffle back to their home countries for World Cup qualifiers.
If you’ve ever flown to Europe or Asia you know it’s a struggle to get some sleep on those 10-15 hour flights, even if it’s a red eye flight. You get the jimmy legs and those startled awake jolts just when you’re about to fall asleep. It’s not fun. And, when you arrive at your destination there’s the additional jolt of the time change. It’s dark outside but you’re now wide-awake since it’s 10am from where you came. Jet legged and tired you try to get some sleep when you arrive at your hotel or home – depending upon if you’re coming or returning.
The U.S. women’s national team is trying out a unique method to combat jet lag during the first few days of its trip to Portugal.
It all starts to take a toll though as the season goes along, the matches and the travel, so many games – from the pre-season tours, to the Champions League, to the regular league matches, to the various league cup matches, to the friendlies, and then the World Cup qualifiers.
But it didn’t or hasn’t stopped Robinho; he stepped off the plane back from Brazil and bent in a sublime first half free kick. However, the skinny genius did seem to fade a bit in the second half.
Robinho has done this before. He was castigated by the Real Madrid fans for missing practice after he’d missed a flight when he was on duty with Brazil. He’d missed the flight because he was out partying all night in the discos. He answered with two goals though and his own dancing on the ball magic that they’d come to love at least for a time. But he’s still young; in a few years this ability to bounce back won’t come so easy. The jet leg will get to him too I imagine.
Then there’s Beckham, whose carbon footprint has come into question. He bounces across the pond to play for England and then comes back to play for LA. He over extended himself I think when he first signed with the Galaxy, coming back to play in a match versus Chelsea but then getting hurt a few games later. A nagging hamstring injury that wouldn’t go away and then suffering a knee injury as he unwisely went in hard in a late challenge. He even popped up in China for the closing ceremonies, as London will host the 2012 Olympics. He’s everywhere more or less, from Laker games to Olympic games. In 2007 alone, Beckham flew 250,000 miles.
Moreover, it’s more and more common for teams to take these nearly epic pre-season tours across the globe to build their brand and sell jerseys. Real Madrid and Manchester United taking trips to Asia or the LA Galaxy going all the way to Australia for two or three matches. Manchester United even went to South Africa for a few games and a couple of their stars came back with a nasty flu – Paul Scholes for one.
And the MLS, just do to the size of the United States, has to endure longer flights or trips than say clubs in England or Spain. It’s not a simple hop skip and jump from New York to LA or Toronto to San Jose. There are very few short flights in the MLS. Expansion will help but it can’t come soon enough as far traveling goes.
Then there’s the USL, the second division of the United States, with fewer teams in the league they must take even longer trips throughout the season. Where the length of the trips isn’t the only thing but staying on extended trips and away from home for long periods of time takes a toll.
So, as the MLS grows it will at least help them save money on flights and the wear and tear of travels toll on the body and mind but in Europe, as demand grows, more countries want the big clubs to come to their towns and owners want to sell more jerseys. So I don’t think there’s going to be a slow down in travel. Thankfully, fuel prices have gone down at least for the short term.
But really, such is the tough the life of the professional footballer, traveling and staying at hotels – seeing the world. There are a ton of players who’d love to be in their shoes. They can’t complain too much.
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