September 24 – Expressing concern over the Covid-19 pandemic in South America, the world players union FIFPro says would favour giving players decision-making power over their participation in October’s World Cup qualifiers in the region.
South American governing body Conmebol has maintained next month’s World Cup qualifiers after previously postponing the fixtures in the March and September in the region leading to a backlog of matches, but FIFPro is worried about the situation on the ground.
“The players need to be able to make free decisions,” FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told Reuters. “It’s a region heavily infected by the pandemic and there are certain COVID-19 restrictions and travel warnings.”
Earlier this week, local authorities in Ecuador closed the stadium that was due to host Barcelona’s encounter with Flamengo in the Copa Libertadores because of the high number of infections in the Brazilian club’s squad. Ultimately, national authorities overruled the municipal decision and the match went ahead.
Conmebol succeeded in negotiating open borders for the participants in their premier club competition, but for the World Cup qualifiers the situation is far more complex with national squads uniting players from around the world. This will lead to travel difficulties for foreign-based players and potentially mandatory quarantine when returning from South America.
“I won’t suggest every player may not be willing to play but of course there are players who are concerned about this,” said Baer-Hoffmann. “We are concerned that players may be in a situation where the health protection of them and their families would come into a collision course (with national team commitments).”
He also questioned the potential long-term implications of an infection.
“What are the turnaround times for testing players? What is the protection and insurance in case players get infected? If they have long-term health problems, who would be responsible for making sure players are taken care of?,” asked Baer-Hoffmann. “There are all questions we are figuring out – we understand they are not easy, but they are elements which must be clarified.”
Last Friday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino indicated at a news conference that the world federation was working on a protocol to ensure the qualifiers in South America can go ahead in a bio-secure way.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1603324972labto1603324972ofdlr1603324972owedi1603324972sni@o1603324972fni1603324972