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SouthAm soccer authorities weigh options for World Cup qualifiers

Asuncion, Mar 5 (efe-epa).- The South American Soccer Confederation (Conmebol) said Friday that it plans talks with FIFA chief Gianni Infantino on how to respond to the unwillingness of European clubs to release players for 2022 World Cup qualifiers set for this month due to Covid-19.

“A virtual meeting between the FIFA president and the Conmebol Council is scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday),” the confederation said on Twitter.

The majority of South America’s elite footballers play for clubs in Europe, where they can earn vastly more money.

Teams across Europe have expressed misgivings about letting South America players travel across the Atlantic amid the pandemic, but the strongest opposition is coming from English clubs.

Citing the United Kingdom’s pandemic travel regulations, which require anyone arriving from countries on London’s Red List – including every nation in South America – to spend 10 days isolating in a hotel, Premier League sides say they can’t risk having their players’ absences extended for quarantine.

“FIFA committed to continue seeking a solution to the impasse that emerged because South American players who play in European leagues are not released in favor of their national teams,” Conmebol said.

Media outlets report that several national associations in South America rejected a proposal from FIFA, soccer’s world-governing body, to have the two rounds of qualifiers scheduled for March to be played in Europe.

“I think that FIFA was kind of clear, saying we don’t have to let the players go this time and I think all the clubs agree that we cannot just let the boys go and solve the situation when they come back, with our players having a 10-day quarantine in a hotel or whatever,” Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp said Wednesday.

“I understand the need of the different FAs (football associations), but this is a time when we cannot make everybody happy,” the Reds boss said. “So we have to admit that the players are paid by the clubs, which means we have to be first priority. That’s how it is.”

Last year, Conmebol managed to hold the first four rounds of World Cup qualifiers, playing in empty stadiums under strict health rules.

But the crisis has become more acute in South America in recent weeks, especially in Brazil, which is second only to the United States in Covid-19 deaths.

Colombia’s health minister, Fernando Ruiz, said Friday that under the present circumstances, he would oppose allowing the Brazilian national soccer team to enter his country for a March 26 qualifying match.

Brazil leads the South American standings, taking all 12 possible points from its four matches. Argentina is second with 10 points, one more than Ecuador. EFE

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