Should We Be Rushing Back to Play Soccer?
After the unprecedented disruptions and massive cancelations of the soccer calendar due to the Coronavirus COVID-19, is the world ready to start up games again, even in closed stadiums? How risk-averse are we as a nation? As a sport, how can we reduce the uncertainty and impact of COVID-19 on soccer?
As the World Health Organization (WHO) warns of triggering a second wave of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the soccer world waits and watches. The WHO has clearly stated the responsibility of avoiding a worse than before resurgence of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus is in our hands. Will the pandemic resurface with renewed strength?
How can we avoid it and how real is the concern are the questions plaguing the decision-makers as they ponder whether to bring back the beautiful game this spring or summer.
Today’s announcement that France will cancel all sports events until September 1, 2020, is a game-changer.
Although the Netherlands’ Dutch FA (KNVB) announced a similar plan last week, abandoning their season without a winner, the world basically ignored their decision, and countries around the globe began announcing tentative plans to allow soccer clubs to start training, even begin to consider scheduling games.
The French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, has declared no sporting competitions or events will be held in France before September 1.
Now, France is the second country in Europe to cancel sporting events.
Without the ability to play, even in empty stadiums, this effectively canceled Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 season although the French Professional Football League (LFP) had recently discussed returning to play on June 17.
Read on GOAL (April 20): The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) announced plans to resume 2019-20 Ligue 1
Now that we know the Ligue 1 season will not resume, how will this impact the rest of professional football around the world? What will the USA do? And, will France’s decision to cancel sports for the entire summer change plans to restart soccer in England, Spain, Germany, and Italy?
Like the rest of the world, France suspended soccer in March because of the Coronavirus pandemic. There was speculation and plans to resume professional soccer in France as recently as one week ago. While other countries are announcing plans to return to play, will it really happen, and if it does, at what risk?
How safe is playing soccer in an empty stadium?
One of the greatest challenges is will resuming play provoke a resurgence of COVID-19? Will the reopening of professional soccer too early trigger the spread of the deadly pandemic? Coronavirus projection models show that deaths will rise in America in the coming weeks, but it is the rate of the increase that we can impact through social distancing, according to the CDC.
The other challenge no one wants to talk about is the risk of injuries. How quickly can players get back into condition? And how can the risk of injuries be minimized if the schedules are compressed in an attempt to complete the season and the players are not given enough time to recover?
The health of players and communities should be the top priority, not economics.
Fans can remember when Zlatan Ibrahimovic played for Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain before his stint for the MLS‘ LA Galaxy and his recent return to Europe to play for AC Milan earlier this year. Visit Ligue1 to see the league’s top goal scorers.
The world eagerly awaits the return of great soccer and seeing more outstanding goals scored in highly competitive matches, but maybe rushing back to the pitch is not the wisest decision. And, unfortunately unless someone finds a crystal ball, we will only know in the rearview mirror which was the right decision.