FIFA, European leagues at odds over releasing players for WC qualifiers

Sports Desk, Aug 25 (EFE).- Italy’s Serie A joined the English Premier League on Wednesday in declining to release players for World Cup qualifiers involving travel to Covid-19 hot spots.

In the absence of moves by governments to create exemptions for footballers who would otherwise be subject to quarantine on their return from international duty, clubs who released players would be placed at a competitive disadvantage, Serie A said.

The United Kingdom and Italy are among the European countries that have classified nations in terms of pandemic risk and mandated a 10-day quarantine for travelers arriving from places rated as especially risky.

Nearly 60 players from English clubs were set to travel to 26 countries that are on the UK government’s “red list,” the Premier League said Tuesday.

Egypt’s football association said Monday that Liverpool had refused to release striker Mohamed Salah for the upcoming African World Cup qualifiers.

But the biggest impact of the policies adopted by Serie A and Premier League will be on national teams in South America.

Brazil looks likely to be without goalkeepers Alisson Becker (Liverpool) and Ederson (Manchester City); captain Thiago Silva (Chelsea); and other elite players such as Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Man City) and Richarlison (Everton).

“Premier League clubs have today reluctantly but unanimously decided not to release players for international matches played in red-list countries next month,” England’s top-flight said.

“This follows FIFA’s current position not to extend its temporary release exception for players required to quarantine on their return from international duty,” the league said.

The Premier League also expressed unhappiness about the plan by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, to extend both the September and October international breaks from nine to 11 days.

While Spain’s LaLiga has yet to adopt an official stance, sentiment among the 20 clubs appears to be running in the direction of refusing to release players.

Reacting to the Premier League announcement, FIFA’s president issued an appeal Wednesday for leagues to do their part to “preserve and protect sporting integrity.”

“I am calling on a show of solidarity from every member association, every league, and every club, to do what is both right and fair for the global game,” Gianni Infantino said.

The FIFA boss said he had reached out to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for help in resolving the dilemma.

“I have suggested that an approach similar to that adopted by the UK government for the final stages of the Euro 2020 be implemented for the upcoming international matches,” Infantino said. EFE ncc/dr

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