Pros 23.05.2022 — 17:58 Uhr

Planning for a season under difficult conditions

Nations League games and winter World Cup pose challenges – “I have no idea who thought that was a good idea”

Club executives and Bo Svensson have been worrying about preparation in both this summer and the following winter for a long time.

At the moment, nearly every Zerofiver is enjoying their summer holiday, apart from the sporting leadership. For some time now, the sporting executives at the club have been worrying about how best to deal with the upcoming 2022/23 season. It will be a very different season for all Bundesliga clubs, and perhaps not in a positive way. Midway through November, midway through the season, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will begin in Qatar, which means a two-month break for the regular league campaign and a season which will be difficult to plan for properly.

“For me, it’s the biggest joke that world football has ever played on clubs: To first give a World Cup to a country in the summer – the time of year World Cups have always been played in – and only afterwards discover that it is far too hot to play there in summer, then move the whole tournament to the winter, and make the entire world of football adjust around it,” said Christian Heidel in the season-ending press conference at Bruchweg. “We’ll have no football for three months of the year, which means no income. You can’t do anything with that. It will cost the football world millions, and will cause financial issues for so many clubs. We’re already hard pushed with the lack of income we get in regular off-seasons.”

The entire world of football will have to adjust around it

Martin Schmidt also added that the winter World Cup may also cause problems for other sports, especially winter sports like skiing and so on, “because their major tournaments will collide with the World Cup this year. Professional skiers will have to start their racing season as early as October, just so they can avoid clashing with the football.” Mainz’s sporting director was worried for the Bundesliga in a different regard: “Next season will actually be two seasons in one, as the winter break is actually longer than the normal summer one. That means teams will plan for the half-season up until the World Cup entirely separately to the rest of the season. That will change a huge amount of things. Teams will look completely different in January as they would have before the break; the transfer market will also change entirely. It’s all very strange, to be honest.”

Winter tournaments as an alternative?

The head coach is also faced with big challenges in terms of planning for the season: “We can’t train solidly for ten weeks over the winter without any matches or competitive fun on weekends to break it up,” explained Bo Svensson. “We need to make things just a little bit more interesting for the lads who aren’t at the World Cup and give everyone some time off, too – a lot of things need to fit together. We’re treading new ground here, which is why we need to think so hard about how to make good use of this long break.”

Schmidt could imagine, for example tournaments being held, potentially somewhere internationally. “At least that keeps the rhythm of competition going a little bit, and a few fans might come into the stadiums for those games.”

Nations League on the horizon

There is never enough football for some. Two weeks after the end of the 2021/22 Bundesliga season, UEFA have organised a international break, in which four Nations League game will be played. Several Zerofivers will be involved and whilst the players are naturally excited to represent their countries, some are also eager to be nominated for the World Cup squads. Among these is Anton Stach, who has been nominated for the Germany national team for just the second time. He is very happy to be selected, but is also looking to work hard to secure his chance to go to Qatar. There is, however, also some quiet criticism from the first team about this international break. 

International Zerofivers: Anton Stach, Karim Onisiwo, Leo Barreiro, Silvan Widmer & Jonny Burkardt will start their summer break later than usual this year.

“It was a long year for me,” said Silvan Widmer, looking back on the season. The Switzerland international took part in the European Championship last summer, he was selected for the World Cup qualifiers back in the autumn and completed the most minutes of any Mainz player in the Bundesliga this campaign. A break in order to recuperate would’ve been the order of the day for the Swiss, but that may not be possible with the UEFA Nations League starting in June. “It’s not really ideal,” said the right-back.

It’s not really ideal.

“I have a long season behind me, but just imagine if I had 12 or 13 Europa League or Champions League games on top of that, like some players do. That’s just a completely different level. I am, however, not tired and I am looking forward to the four upcoming international fixtures. After that I will be able to enjoy my holiday. It would be out of the question for me to not take part. I’m feeling good and there is no reason to do so,” said Widmer.

Barreiro, Onisiwo and Burkardt also on international duty

Leandro Barreiro also has international fixtures with Luxembourg to contend with. His goal is to play in the 2024 European Championship in Germany with his national side. “Your goal as a footballer is always to play in the big tournaments. But it will be very difficult. But if I compare it to what we did last year at Mainz, then you have to say it is possible to qualify for a tournament with Luxembourg. I am convinced that we will qualify for a big tournament at some point. We can get off to a good start in the Nations League games.” Barreiro also finds the four international matches 14 days after the end of the Bundesliga season, as the very least, an inconvenience. “I am still looking forward to playing for my country. Four games is perhaps too many but as a player you just have to deal with it and take it seriously.”

Bo Svensson is, however, a little more critical: “I don’t know who came up with the idea of scheduling these matches for 14 days after the end of the season. It doesn’t seem logical or sensible to me,” said the gaffer.

I don’t know who came up with the idea.

It goes without saying that you just have to make the best of the situation. There are various programmes for those who aren’t on international duty at the start of June. The first official training session will take place at the Bruchweg on 21st June. “We will train for twelve or thirteen days, take a week off, and then the whole group will come back together,” explained Bo Svensson. This will also include all the Nations League players, including Kairm Onisiwo, who has been selected for Austria and Jonny Burkardt who is captain of the Germany U21s.

The first game of the season will be played on the final weekend of July, when the DFB-Pokal is due to start. The draw for the first round will be made on Sunday 29th May. The new Bundesliga season is due to begin a week later.