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International trips: Europe's risky corona balancing act

Status: 19.03.2021 12:13 p.m.

The third corona wave is rolling. Nevertheless, from next week onwards, numerous football professionals will travel across Europe to the upcoming international matches. Associations, clubs and players are doing a real balancing act to keep operations going despite the increasing number of infections.

by Matthias Heidrich

This challenges actions that are only possible in professional football. According to information from the specialist magazine "kicker", the Czech Football Association will charter a private jet to bring Werder Bremen's goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka to the World Cup qualifier on March 24th in Estonia as risk-free as possible. Vladimir Darida (Hertha BSC), Pavel Kaderabek (TSG Hoffenheim) and Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen) should also be on board when the plane picks up the players at two airports near Cologne and Berlin, to Tallin and then back to Germany brings.

"Virus variant areas" as no-go areas

Pavlenka and Co. are not present in the Czech games against Belgium (March 27) and Wales (March 30) because they would have to be in quarantine for two weeks after returning from the "virus variant areas". These currently include the Czech Republic and Great Britain. It looks different after the flying visit to the "high incidence area" Estonia. In this case, isolation upon return is not required. The FIFA regulations currently give clubs the option of refusing to release players if they are threatened with quarantine for at least five days on return.

German England legionaries are allowed to join the national team

True to the motto "No rules without exceptions", the German England legionaries Ilkay Gündogan, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Antonio Rüdiger and Bernd Leno can again travel to the national team in Duisburg without having to be in strict quarantine. The DFB announced that approval could be given "in accordance with the currently valid Corona entry regulations in North Rhine-Westphalia". The regulation of the authorities generally provides for an exemption for those arriving from Great Britain to exercise their profession.

The quartet must, however, be further isolated within the already existing "bubble" of the national team on the instructions of the health department. They are not allowed to have any contact with other people outside of the game, training and team meetings.

Clemens Fritz shows understanding for the professionals

Werder's licensed player manager Clemens Fritz, as a former national player, can put himself in the shoes of professionals who want to appear for their country. "The boys weren't with their teams in the last two phases, so there is an understanding on our part," said the 40-year-old. "We're trying to get the best out of it and we've made the players aware of it."

"We couldn't afford the 14-day quarantine, no player wants that either."Clemens Fritz

Josh Sargent works in a similar way to his teammate Pavlenka. The Werder striker will travel to the US national team's training camp in Austria and will also be part of the US squad in the international match against Jamaica (March 25) in Vienna - as will John Anthony Brooks from VfL Wolfsburg. In the game three days later in Northern Ireland, however, both will not be there due to the severe restrictions for returnees due to the British coronavirus mutation.

Austria with a 43-man squad

Austria itself competes in Scotland on March 25th - without Bundesliga legionnaires. The Scottish Association refused to move the game to a "neutral location". On March 28 and 31, the Austrians will play their home games against Faroe Islands and Denmark. In order to master the personal puzzle, team boss Franco Foda unceremoniously nominated a 43-man squad, which also includes Pavao Pervan and Xaver Schlager from Wolfsburg and Marco Friedl from Bremen.

European champions Portugal, classified as a "virus variant area" until last Saturday, will play their home game in the World Cup qualification against Azerbaijan (March 24th) in Turin.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino appeals to clubs

Private pilots, mammoth squads and home games abroad: while the next two rounds of the South American World Cup qualification were canceled, Europe is doing a real Corona balancing act to keep operations going. Fired by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who recently appealed to the clubs to turn off the players "as long as their health is not endangered". The national associations are dependent on the TV revenue for the international matches.

UEFA also likes to make money, for example with the U21 European Championships in Hungary and Slovenia. On March 24th, the German U21s will start the group phase with some northern pros against Hungary in Székesfehérvár. Germany's first opponent reported the fourth Corona case in the team on Wednesday.

Many positive cases after traveling in sports

The fact that travel has consequences in professional sport cannot be denied. "In the last few months, whenever someone had to leave the bladder, there have been more cases after the international break than before," said Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp. It is also in handball, where several professionals tested positive after returning from their international trips - including two players from the Bundesliga club SG Flensburg-Handewitt, and for example also in athletics.

European Indoor Athletics Championships as a super spreader?

The European indoor championships at the beginning of March in Torun, Poland are currently developing into a kind of "super-spreader sporting event". On Wednesday, ten days after the end of the European Championship, the German Athletics Association (DLV) announced that seven positive cases had occurred in the course of follow-up tests. In the depressing "Corona Nations Cup", that is not even enough for the podium: Italy reported 15 cases, ten Great Britain, which sent its entire Torun delegation into isolation, eight the Netherlands. More than 50 infections were already on record on Thursday afternoon.

The national soccer players will all be back at their clubs at the beginning of April, and the 27th Bundesliga matchday will be on the Easter weekend. The experts at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recently predicted a possible incidence of over 300 for Germany from Easter Monday in a gloomy prognosis. The test results of those returning to the football business were not included.

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Sports club | 03/21/2021 | 10:50 pm