A large number of FIFPRO player unions organize annual training camps for free agents in order to help these players get in shape with the help of a professional training staff and to provide them the opportunity to showcase their fitness and skills during friendly matches.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, various unions cancelled this year’s training camp.
Portuguese player union SJPF was one of a handful of unions* who did organize a training camp. “We decided to do it because many players didn’t have any facilities to train or play at due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said union president Joaquim Evangelista.
To minimize the risk of infection, the SJPF made some adjustments. Only two groups of ten players were allowed each day, training methods focused more on individual performance and no friendly matches were organized.
SJPF also allowed players to attend who could not train with their clubs due to Covid-19 measures. “Our campus and high-level training facilities are open for all players,” said Evangelista. “We gave players such as Edgar Ié and Bruma the possibility to work on their physical condition with us instead of letting them train alone or in a gym. Their presence also helped motivate other, unemployed players.”
Bruma, who joined Greek champions Olympiakos on loan from Dutch team PSV earlier this month, said: “The player union gave me all the possibilities to return to my club in the best shape.”
Thirty players found a new club after attending the training camp, which SJPF organized from July 13th until September 18th. Three signed with top tier teams (Mario Evora with Vitoria SC, Joao Canadas with Belenses and Marcelo Lopes with Voluntari in Romania), all other players joined second or third level teams.
“The success rate was the same as previous years, with approximately 60 percent of players finding a new team,” said Evangelista. “And we received positive feedback from the clubs, telling us that our players arrived in excellent physical condition.”
*The following players unions also organized training camps during the past few months:ABF (Bulgaria), Spillerforeningen (Denmark), VVCS (the Netherlands), AFE (Spain) and SAFP (Switzerland).