Kenyan Premier League (KPL) season long games are draining to players both physically and mentally.
What the body often craves after a gruelling football season is rest and recovery, whether they want to admit it or not.
During the season, players train hard to build up their endurance and strength and put themselves under a lot of mental stress.
All of these things can take a toll on a player’s body — and the period between mid-November and January is the time players should give their bodies and mind a break to recover both physically and mentally in time for a new season.
The annual Koth Biro tournament is one of the most celebrated mashinani tournaments in the country. It has attracted the who’s who from the local football scene, and afforded a platform to those looking to be scouted by KPL clubs.
Tusker’s Clifford Alwanga, Humphrey Mieno and Mathare’s Eric Yohana and George ‘Wise’ Owino have all featured in the tournament. This is risky and dangerous to both the players and the clubs they play for.
Under Fifa statutes, it is mandatory for clubs to give players a four-week vacation from football. The contrary happens in Kenya.
Playing in such tournaments doesn’t relieve the players of the mental and physical fatigue during the off-season, but rather increases their chances of sustaining serious injuries, hence costing their clubs through medical expenses, in case of injury, and loss of valuable points once the new season commences without their services.
It also increases the physical burden to a player in the new season, hence he will be prone to injury and loss of form, as he has continuously been active in between two seasons without rest.
For most KPL players, the recovery period needs to be at least one month.
That doesn’t mean that a player shouldn’t be doing anything. A couple of weeks of nothing is a good thing — no thinking about football.
After a few weeks, a player may start to engage in light exercises to maintain some fitness level. Once a player has had a break, he can now take time to evaluate his season, identifying things that worked well, and things that didn’t.
He can then formulate a plan for the next season, targeting areas of improvement and identifying ways to improve. It’s also key for players to maintain some level of conditioning so they don’t lose valuable gains made during the season.
This can be achieved by clubs giving individual fitness programmes to players — based on their needs.
Players also need post-season break to take care of any nagging injuries such as tendonitis, muscles soreness, muscle imbalances and stress fractures.
Off-season recovery period is also a good time to review videos, either of the player himself to help in identifying what he needs to do, or of teammates.
Again, catching up on sleep is important. A professional footballer needs a minimum of eight hours of sleep per day. Some local footballers spend the off-season partying, then start training when the body is still exhausted.
While catching up on social time is important, staying up late is not what a player’s body needs to recover.