FIFA medical chief D’Hooghe warns May restart could ‘punish’ us all

By Andrew Warshaw

March 23 – FIFA’s medical chief has hit out at plans to resume the European leagues in mid-May, warning that’s too early and could present a health risk.

Michel d’Hooghe said it was vital not to put financial considerations first when there was no indication how long the coronavirus would last.

“In my opinion mid-May is absolutely too early,” said d’Hooghe. “If you start games in mid-May you have to begin training two or three weeks earlier.”

“I don’t have the future in my hands but in my opinion that’s not a good idea. It’s definitely a health risk with the information we have at our disposal today.”

Last week, Spanish League boss Javier Tebas, who is part of a working group set up by UEFA, said there was a growing consensus among the big leagues for a mid-May restart.

But d’Hooghe said there was no justification for such an early restart – even behind closed doors.

“What I can say is that the corona virus will not have disappeared by May even if it may have flattened out slightly in some countries more than others,” said the veteran Belgian.

“I can’t say when football should realistically start again, it’s an incredibly difficult question because no-one knows when the coronavirus peak will be reached.

He stressed that the problem is not only when matches themselves resume. but the additional time players would need to train in advance.

“Even if clubs start playing behind closed doors, they will need to have trained for at least two weeks. That means people coming together in dressing rooms and showers etc and that is precisely what we have to avoid for the moment. Could that endanger lives? With what I know as of today, it’s certainly a risk, yes.”

D’Hooghe insists football authorities must heed medical advice before acting unilaterally and potentially getting their priorities wrong by putting financial considerations such as broadcasting contracts first.

“You have to strike a balance between medical and economic factors,” he told Insideworldfootball.

“You have the choice. What do you prefer, health or money? This at the moment is the most acute question.

“If you start the competition before getting the green light from the medical specialists,  that could put economics before health and this is precisely what they should not do.

“Otherwise we could all be punished.”

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