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Another Player Tests Positive : Having International Break During A Pandemic Is Peak Irresponsibility By FIFA And UEFA

Mohamed Elneny, Arsenal

Football is slowly trying to make its way back to normalcy after Mikel Arteta‘s COVID-19 test results triggered a freeze in European football last season. But it seems like UEFA and FIFA are hellbent on wrecking that.

Players are subjected to weekly tests and strict social distancing rules in order to maintain smooth sailing. Alas, there will always be instances where these measures may fail to prevent infection. And one of those instances is the international break.

So far, Sead Kolasinac, Mohamed Elneny, Mohamed Salah, Cristiano Ronaldo, Naby Keita, Odsonne Edouard, Matteo Guendouzi etc. are some names that have tested positive for the coronavirus over the course of the last two international breaks. Kolasinac is the latest one to come down with the virus whilst on duty with the Bosnia squad for the UEFA Nations League.

Clearly, there is an observed spike in the positive cases amongst footballers whenever they depart for international duty. The whole process of travelling abroad for matches multiple times in the span of 2 weeks along with playing together and against footballers from different countries and leagues puts these men in serious risk of contracting the virus. Not only does this put the health of anyone who has tested positive in danger, it can also severely affect club football.

During the last break, Arsenal had to work tirelessly to get the permission to field Kieran Tierney for their Premier League match against Manchester City after only been around a Scotland teammate who tested positive a day later. Tierney, despite having tested negative thereafter, was initially restricted from travelling back to London without undergoing a full 14-day isolation period.

Moreover, if many players from one league are infected by some unfortunate incident, it could very well lead to the league fixtures being suspended — costing a lot of time and money in the process.

Just a couple of days ago, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s Instagram stories revealed that the entire Gabon team was held back at their destination airport so long that the players had to sleep on the floor before heading to their hotel for the upcoming match. One does not need to explain how unsafe such situations can be.

Managers have openly expressed their displeasure at the current situation. Jose Mourinho took to Instagram and left a very sarcastic message to showcase his disapproval.

“Amazing week of football. Great emotions in the national team matches, superb friendlies, and total safety,” Mourinho wrote [via Yahoo News].

“COVID test results after matches been played, randomers running on the pitch while team sessions are taking place, and much more. After another training session with only six players, it is now time to take care of myself.” 

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To continue international matches has been nothing short of a careless decision from FIFA and UEFA. The increase in matches played and travelling surely raises the risk of infection. And when the players return from international duty, they may risk infection for the players who have safely returned or never joined the national team.

Maybe finance is a factor that is forcing the governing bodies to take these risks, but these are risks not worth taking especially if money is the only concern. It is a known fact that the Nations League is just a replacement for preseason friendlies, surely that cannot be more important than the health of the players.


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