It took about three days into this international break before Chelsea had to start worrying. The German National Team trained on Wednesday ahead of their match against Iceland. Since then, Jonas Hofmann has tested positive for Covid. The players are self isolating now, but in peak UEFA and international football, the match against Iceland will go on as of the writing of this article.
Jonas Hofmann has no symptoms but that doesn’t mean he isn’t contagious. Chelsea now has to worry about Antonio Rudiger, Timo Werner, and even Kai Havertz. All three players (because recontraction is a thing) are now set to play a match where they could all be at an increased risk for Covid, they could spread it to Iceland, and the match will go on.
Protecting the players is a thing often talked about in the game by higher ups but rarely actually followed through on. Concussion based subs have been talked about for decades and they are only now starting to look like they might be reality. The Covid crisis has been going on for over a year and while play did halt and fans are still excluded from most stadiums, the momentum of “the show must go on” has outweighed the momentum of protecting the players.
Germany versus Iceland shouldn’t be happening the day after a positive Covid test. It is irresponsible to everyone involved except those that stand to gain money off the event. Clubs shouldn’t be forced to release their players to national teams, and yet they still are and there will seemingly be punishments if Chelsea attempts to recall their players.
Chelsea should both be able to and should just do it anyways. There is no sense keeping three Chelsea players in danger just because UEFA doesn’t want to delay a fixture. Bad enough Chelsea’s own bubble is broken to send players all over to national teams that are “bubbles” that are just a bunch of broken ones shoved together. Bad enough that players have been run ragged since play resumed last summer to end one year and jump right into the next, with international breaks included (sometimes with three matches).
No, we’re long past the point of assuming player safety is a concern. It shouldn’t be a question as to whether Germany versus Iceland will go on today. It should be a certainty that it shouldn’t.
Havertz already had Covid this season and it took him completely off the rails. He is only just now getting back to the player he was. And overall, it could have still been worse. Players like N’Golo Kante were allowed to skip training some last season because of Covid fears. Chelsea showed a deference to player safety. But it shouldn’t be up to the clubs alone, especially not when they have no say in internationals destroying any safety protocols clubs may implement.
Football can play on through Covid but it needs to be smarter than it is. Yes vaccines are out there and yes things are getting better. But the fastest way to make things worse again and set this all back a few months is to act like it’s over. UEFA is doing that with their show must go on mentality, and all it does is show player safety is of no concern to them.