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Ahead of this weekend's World Cup matches in Fortaleza and Manaus, FIFPro is concerned the players are not receiving adequate protection as their cries for help fall on deaf ears.

FIFPro, the World Footballers' Association, is aware of the forecast for Saturday's clash between Germany and Ghana in Fortaleza and the steamy conditions expected on Sunday when Portugal meets the United States in Manaus.

The heat and humidity in the north of Brazil is proving quite a challenge for the players who, by their own admission, are clearly suffering in the conditions.

Even when faced by mounting evidence and strong views presented by the players, FIFPro sees a reluctance that FIFA is willing to adapt. What will it take for the players' views and their health to be taken seriously?

The WGBT (Web Bulb Globe Temperature) is the standard by which FIFA assesses if cooling breaks are to be introduced and whether the environement is safe enough for play to continue.

Based on available medical research aimed at providing maximum protection for elite athletes, FIFA's heat policy is a concern. FIFA states the WBGT reading must reach 32 degrees Celcius before hydration breaks are introduced.

FIFPro's Chief Medical Officer Vincent Gouttebarge (PhD) said: "For Saturday's match between Germany and Ghana in Fortaleza (1600 local time), the expectations (based on the World Meteorological Organization) are that it will be 29 degrees Celcius (feeling 33) with a humidity of 70% or more, which leads to a WBGT of nearly 31 degrees."

"The next day, during the match between USA and Portugal in Manaus (1900 local time), around 29 degrees Celcius and over 80% humidity is expected, which leads to a WBGT of nearly 32 degrees."

Dr. Gouttebarge points to the scientific guidelines of the well-established American College of Sports Medicine which recommends the cancellation of any continuous sport activity or competition when the WGBT reaches 28 degrees Celcius.

The World Cup is the pinnacle of international football. It should be a standard-bearer promoting only the best medical practices to ensure those who toil on the pitch are protected at all times. FIFA can do more to prove to the world that it respects the health and safety of the players.

Even more, Dr. Gouttebarge insists that "the introduction of a cooling break of 3-4 minutes at the 30th and 75th minute of a match does not appear to be the best solution for optimal rehydratation."

"Sports science shows that the amount of fluid an athlete can ingest and digest during exercising is up to 200-250ml every 15 minutes."

"Consequently, an optimal rehydratation strategy could rely on two short water breaks every 15 minutes during each half of a match, rather than on a single four minute water break during each half."

Various statements (see below) made by players and coaching staff after the match between Italy and England in Manaus, on June 14, paint a clear picture. Similiar issues have been raised in Natal after the United States met Ghana last Monday, June 16.

Claudio Marchisio (Midfielder, Italy and Juventus)

"At times it felt like [I was] having hallucinations due to the heat."

Claudio Prandelli (National Coach, Italy)

"It was ridiculous not to have [cooling] timeouts. We had to slow down our pace to regain our breath. It was impossible to maintain the intensity. Luckily the referee was good enough to interrupt every now and then, but it's just absurd."

Mario Balotelli (Striker, Italy and AC Milan)

"It's Manaus the climatic conditions are extreme. It was too hot. Other places are hot, but not like this. If it was like this everywhere they would have to have timeouts in all the games. Here [in Manaus], it's bad. Truly."

Roy Hodgson (National Coach, England)

"Quite a few of our players cramped up. That's something we have to look into. That has to do with hydration. Conditions here in Manaus are going to be difficult because it's going to be hot and humid. And all European teams are going to suffer."

 

Photo (top left): Cesare Prandelli, Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo

Photo (right): Italy's Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio help an England player suffering from cramp.







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