THIS TIME around, Jürgen Klopp has a point, with all that’s going on, the fixture list is less than sympathetic to footballers as they cope with the latest wave of the pandemic. While most of Britain is being told to work at home, avoid certain places and keep those masks on, players run the risk of infection every time they run out on the pitch. Football is a combat sport to some extent, so isolation while on duty is impossible.
However, there’s a degree of contradiction given the low level of vaccination among players in England. If players and managers are that worried about their well being, then why has the Premier League got the lowest level of vaccination among the top leagues in Europe. Fair play to Klopp for saying, publicly that an unvaccinated player is no use to him. In Britain, the attitude towards vaccination suggests many things, not least that other countries do not want Brits arriving at airports at the moment.
But compare the vaccination rate of the Premier (68%) at the last count compared to Serie A (98%), Ligue 1 (95%), Bundesliga (94%) and La Liga (90%) – it is really quite shameful and very irresponsible. Fans are told to take their lateral flow tests and behave responsibly, showing evidence of a clean bill of health and double vaccinations, so why don’t players also tow the line? The next batch of figures are due any moment now, so we will see if the trend has changed.
Recently, I was on a coach going to an away match with my local step three non-league club and we were told to wear masks while we were in our seats. The officials and fans on the coach adhered to the rules, but the players were without masks. This was, in my view, a kick in the teeth to the people playing ball.
Some might argue that it’s a generational thing, that older folk will wear masks as they are more vulnerable, but the unmasked are also capable of infecting others. The masks may not be 100% reliable, but they stop other picking up your droplets.
From the clubs’ perspective, surely they would insist on their players being vaccinated? These young men are in a team game, changing together, showering alongside each other, celebrating together. If nothing else, would they not want to protect themselves to limit the damage done by the virus? And if they are the role models they claim to be and community-minded characters that support worthy causes, how can they shy away from vaccinations?
Football has developed a taste for making very visible demonstrations of its social conscience, the covid vaccination programme is more relevant than many of campaigns that players attach themselves to. At the moment, the low rate of adherence does not indicate a caring, sharing body of people, does it?
The clubs have decided to push ahead with the Christmas programme, despite some rumblings that they were concerned. So for all the mumbling about unacceptable fixtures, to quote the typical post-match manager, “we go again… and again”. If the current rate of infection continues, nobody will be going again for a while.