Bafana Bafana during a training session in 2019. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Bafana Bafana during a training session in 2019. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs can expect long-term injuries given the extraordinary circumstances of the Premiership’s return to play and scramble to finish by August 31‚ says former Bafana Bafana fitness trainer Joshua Smith.

AmaZulu high-performance manager Smith said from a fitness trainer’s perspective, an August 1 kickoff is preferable in terms of preparation‚ but the catch-22 is matches will come thick and fast after a period of inactivity‚ resulting in fatigue and breakdowns.

The PSL and SA Football Association (Safa) have continued to wrangle over a start date for the Premiership and National First Division (NFD), to be completed in a bio-safe bubble‚ with the PSL preferring July 18 to the August 1 date set down by Safa.

“I foresee injuries. I spoke to a colleague who agrees,” Smith said on Tuesday. “No matter how well you prepare, normally there are injuries. And we are now going into an extraordinary situation with a long time out‚ a short period of preparation‚ and a lot of games in a short time.”

Smith said it will be a huge challenge getting players match-fit.

AmaZulu returned to organised training on July 6‚ as did most clubs, which would mean a four-week preparation for an August 1 kickoff.

“Normally, we have an off-season for a player of four to five weeks‚ and then a preseason of six to seven weeks‚” Smith said. “What we’ve got here is effectively an off-season of about 16 weeks‚ and a preseason of four weeks.”

He felt this was not enough time.

“And‚ as good a running programme you might have had [individually during the lockdown]‚ a hugely important aspect of training is playing football‚ and we can’t expose our players to friendly games.

“So you’ve got a situation where you don’t have enough time to expose the players to progressive loading‚ and you also cannot expose them to the right type of loading [in friendlies].”

Friendlies are not as intense as a competitive game‚ but being semi-competitive provide a bridge for players going from a period of inactivity to match fitness.

Smith said even the later kickoff of August 1‚ while vastly preferable from a preparation perspective to July 18‚ presents the challenge of matches coming at a furious rate.

This‚ after such a long a period of inactivity and a short preseason‚ will not see matches improve in quality even as players progress in match fitness‚ as it creates fatigue.

“It’s a very difficult situation and I would be surprised if any team were able to come back and perform at 100%. I don’t see that an intensity in matches can be maintained beyond 45-60 minutes. I’d be very surprised if teams can go the distance.”

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