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SPORTS | 14-05-2020 11:46

Officials in Argentina studying protocols for return of football training

Government begins studying health protocols for potential return of professional football training, with May 25 the earliest possible date; AFA don't expect games to restart until summer, in December or January. 

The government has started studying the health protocols for a possible return of professional football training, although with no definite date within the compulsory social isolation to halt the spread of coronavirus.

"Where we’re at is the work teams [of the Health and Tourism & Sports Ministries] are starting to talk next week about certain protocols," Health Minister Ginés González García told Radio Rivadavia.

The initiative contemplates the return of training only under strictly preventive forms with the Argentine Football Association (AFA) leadership not expecting any match play until summer, in December or January. 

Earlier this week, the La Nación newspaper reported that officials had pencilled in a potential return date of May 25, though other outlets said that was the earliest possible date.

No hurry

Officials are in no hurry. Tourism and Sports Minister Matías Lammens warned that "we should not hasten the return of football in Argentina to avoid having to backtrack afterwards," in statements to El Destape radio station.

"Football is a contact sport and although a pitch has 7,000 square metres for only 22 footballers, there are moments in the match in which the players cluster and that’s dangerous. The sports which could return earlier are the individual ones like tennis or golf," indicated Lammens.

Among the ideas for practices, González García proposed that "the players go alone, already dressed for training and divided into squads so as not to enter the dressing-rooms."

The health minister maintained: "If there is no contagion [among the players], football could return.” All championships have been paralysed since mid-March.

"We didn’t talk about possible dates of return although we’re both [along with Lammens] futboleros," said González García.

President Alberto Fernández, another fervent football fan, said earlier this week that if possible, "with rapid testing, say, for around 30 players, the teams could return to training."

"It has been explained to me that in football the fear does not lie in the infection of players. Those in the Primera [División] are very young kids, many living with their parents, and the fear is bringing the infection home," said the president.

Víctor Blanco, AFA's secretary-general and the president of Racing Club, said that he had spoken "to some players" and that "at the end of this month or early June training may commence."

Contagion fears

But on the other hand, Lanús President Nicolás Russo, also a member of the AFA Executive Committee, said he does not see a return to training as viable, at least in the short run.

"[The proposal] surprised me greatly. I don’t think it’s possible by that date,” argued Russo.

Lanús veteran José Sand, 39, a prolific goal-scorer, expressed himself on similar lines, pointing out: "It would be dangerous to return to training in the next 10 days."

"Health must be the priority. The [club's] doctors told us that we couldn’t return until June or July. It just cannot be that nobody is consulting the football players. I’m very afraid of going back to training and getting infected,” said Sand.

For now, in some provinces which have relaxed their quarantines, tennis, paddle, golf and rowing practices have returned.

The quarantine has hit football club revenues as never before. Relegation has been suspended, a situation which relieves Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, the team coached by Diego Maradona, which already had one foot in the Second Division. It is planned to increase the participants in next season’s First Division tournament from 24 to 26 clubs.

– TIMES/AFP

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