COVID-19 PLAYS SPOILSPORT FOR CLUBS' PRE-SEASON IN EUROPE: WILL THE UPCOMING SEASON SUFFER THE SAME FATE?
The Covid-19 virus is back with a vengeance and at a time when the new football season is just on the horizon. Only a few days ago it seemed that the virus’ impact had been thwarted in parts of Europe as England unveiled plans to finally open doors for spectators in the Premier League from next season.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced relaxations related to the regulations surrounding the wearing of masks and other Covid-appropriate behaviour in the United Kingdom.
But everything has been seemingly undone as the virus has once again returned to wreak havoc and it can potentially affect the upcoming season in football. And the effect is not only limited to Britain this time.
Clubs in Italy and Spain have also been bearing the brunt of the notorious virus this time out. As the new season draws ever closer, FootTheBall takes a look at the effects and ramifications it can have on club football all across Europe.
KARIM BENZEMA TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
The French forward-in-exile, who had been frozen out by Didier Deschamps for almost six years out of Les Bleus squad, was finally granted a call-up for the Euro 2020 tournament.
The fact that France had been drawn in the supposed ‘Group of Death’ coupled with Benzema’s excellent performances for Real Madrid in the 2020-21 season prompted Deschamps to make the decision.
But just before the start of the 2021-22 season, the former Lyon player has fallen prey to the deadly virus – something which will prompt Carlo Ancelotti to display quintessential crisis management skills to make do without the French forward for a while.
Los Blancos announced this on the club’s official website with a short, succinct statement confirming that Benzema had indeed tested positive for Covid-19.
Comunicado Oficial: Karim Benzema#RealMadrid
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) July 23, 2021
Madrid issued a statement on Friday morning that read as follows: “Real Madrid C. F. confirm that our player Karim Benzema has tested positive for COVID-19”.
Going forward, the Frenchman will now have to isolate himself as Carlo Ancelotti and company continue preparations for the new season.
And it is expected that Real Madrid will have to do without the French player for the opening game weeks of the season in Spain at the very least.
ARSENAL CANCEL FOOTBALL PRE-SEASON TOUR OVER COVID-19 CONCERNS
Elsewhere, English club Arsenal have cancelled their pre-season tour of the United States of America over concerns about the spread of the virus in the team’s group that was slated to travel across the pond.
The Gunners have reported a small number of Covid-19 positive cases within the club and hence have called off the pre-season tour in Florida.
As per media reports, the individuals who tested positive are isolating at their respective homes and are asymptomatic as things currently stand. The English club released an official statement to this effect that read as follows:
“Following a small number of positive Covid tests among the planned party to travel to America tomorrow, we have sadly been forced to withdraw from the Florida Cup
“This difficult decision is based on ensuring the health and wellbeing of our players and staff”. Following this development, Arsenal’s training base was deep cleaned to prevent the spread of the virus among other teammates.
Meanwhile, Inter Milan have also cancelled their pre-season tour in Florida over concerns over the virus spreading in the United States of America, especially the state of Florida.
In recent weeks, the southeastern state of the U.S. has reported a surge in the number of coronavirus cases and as such Inter Milan deemed it right to cancel their pre-season plans altogether.
As of now, only Everton and Millionarios will be competing in the friendly competition in the United States before the regular season begins.
🚨 TICKET & KICKOFF UPDATE 🚨
PLEASE NOTE: The match will now kick off at 6 p.m. ET.
— Florida Cup (@Florida_Cup) July 22, 2021
Chelsea have also been reported to detect a ‘possible positive’ Covid-19 case in their travelling party to Ireland for pre-season, and have subsequently called off the pre-season friendly on Irish soil.
POSSIBLE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE UPCOMING FOOTBALL SEASON
Spectators were only allowed during the closing rounds of matches in the previous season of the Premier League, but optimism was on the rise as the British government announced the relaxation of rules and easing of restrictions.
This led to anticipation of witnessing full-capacity stadiums for the next season in England, with the Premier League authorities hopeful that fans would indeed return in large numbers back into the stadiums. But the outbreak of the virus once again in team camps has potentially put this proposed plan in doubt once again.
And financially, revenues of clubs will be severely hit if the fans don’t return to stadiums for the new season. Every major European club has had to cut costs and reduce players’ wages in order to cope with the financial strain of the pandemic.
But many were hopeful of fans’ return for the upcoming season and this would surely have dampened their hopes of financial upturn and recovery after a gruelling season, both literally for the players on the pitch and metaphorically for the club officials off the pitch.