William Gallas Exclusive: Festive Schedule Tough Physically And Mentally
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William Gallas Exclusive: Festive Schedule Tough Physically And Mentally

English football's rapid run of fixtures over the festive period is both physically and mentally challenging – that's the opinion of former Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham defender William Gallas. Covid-19 permitting, the top 20 sides in the country face the prospect of three matches in one week, a unique tradition that can be traced as far back as the 19th century. It can be a shock to the system for players who arrive from the continent, given the winter break afforded to stars in Serie A, Ligue 1, LaLiga and the Bundesliga. Gallas had his first taste of festive football in 2001, after joining Chelsea from Marseille the previous summer — and the Frenchman initially found it a tough experience.


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Adapting To The Festive Schedule

Speaking exclusively to Genting, he said: “At the beginning it was terrible! In France, we didn’t play so many games over Christmas, so when I joined the Premier League, the first season was not easy. 

“But slowly, I started to adapt and I began to enjoy playing every three days. 

“The good thing about football, even if you have a bad game, you don’t have time to be sad, because you have to be focused on the next match – you have the opportunity to show everyone your last game was a mistake. 

“That’s why I enjoyed it. know it’s very difficult for the brain and for the body, but this  period shows the importance of being professional; how you have to do everything to be fit and to play every three days. 

“I think the most difficult thing is for the players who get older. When you are young, it’s not a problem, because your body reacts and recovers very quickly, but when you get into your thirties, it can be a problem. 

“Your body doesn’t react like before, and you need more time to recover.”

Festive Schedule Magical Tradition

The former centre-back also revealed that England’s winter schedule was a topic of discussion amongst the French national team.

“We spoke about the Premier League (when the France squad would meet up), the players wanted to know how it’s possible to play every three days, they wanted to know why you play on Boxing Day,” he said. 

“They wanted to know how it was possible to deal with all the matches. When you start explaining to them, some of them wanted to join the Premier League. 

“In my opinion, it is one of the things that makes the Premier League magical and the Premier League must keep this tradition. 

“I know some people want to change the calendar, but I would say, ‘no, don’t change it’. If players want to play in the best league, then the best league is in England, the players must adapt to the Premier League. 

“If a manager wants to manage in this league, he has to adapt as well. I know some managers are complaining – if you come to England, you know it’s like this, don’t try to change the rules.”




Boxing Day Memories

Gallas, who made 321 Premier League appearances, went on to fondly recall the memories from his maiden Boxing Day fixture.

“I remember the first game I played like this with Chelsea,” he recounted.  

“For me, it was new, and I said, ‘oh, my God, what’s going on here, why do we have to play on the 26th?’ – I thought this was crazy. 

“But when I went to the stadium and saw all the fans who were there supporting us, it was magic. 

“Just after Christmas Day; everybody there to enjoy it. When you go on the pitch, it’s a battle. 

“It’s very cold. You have to fight because you have to win. It was great. For me, it was one of the best moments of my career, to experience playing in that period.”

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V: 1.20.0 All rights reserved. August 2021
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