FIFA President Gianni Infantino said it’s too irresponsible to resume domestic leagues season and international competitions in soonest time with the world still dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Our first priority, our principle, the one we will use for our competitions and encourage everyone to follow is that health comes first,” said Infantino via FIFA website in a video conference call with 211 member football associations and federations last April 10th.
“I cannot stress this enough. No match, no competition, no league is worth risking a single human life. Everyone in the world should have this very clear in their mind. It would be more than irresponsible to force competitions to resume if things are not 100% safe. If we have to wait a little longer we must do so. It’s better to wait a little bit longer than to take any risks,” Infantino stressed.
Infantino’s remark came after several countries still continuing its domestic league seasons despite the COVID-19 pandemic in Burundi and Nicaragua while Tajikistan continued its plan to start their 2020 domestic league season due to zero cases of COVID-19 in the country.
Prominent leagues like the Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga suspended their respective seasons while continental football associations like UEFA and AFC also suspended their international competitions due to the pandemic.
Big tournaments like the Euro 2020, Copa America and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which football was an Olympic sport, was moved to 2021.
Belgium meanwhile became the first country in Europe to conclude its domestic football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic with Club Brugge declared as champion.
Belarusian Premier League- the top-tier domestic league in Belarus are still continuing their season like the domestic football leagues in Nicaragua and Burundi, despite the ban imposed by the Belarus government in all sporting, scientific and cultural events. The non-stoppage of the competition earned an ire from FIFAPro, the union of professional football players.
“We review the situation on a daily basis, “Belarus Football Association(FA) General- Secretary Sergei Zhardetski told ESPN on their decision to continue the season despite a pandemic . “We fully trust our healthcare system and there are currently no reasons for stopping the league.’’
“We understand that the situation in some countries is very serious but having consulted with the corresponding authorities in Belarus we have an understanding that our league can continue for the moment,” he added.
Despite those words, the attendances at matches dropped due to COVID-19 fears and social distancing measures are also implemented for those in attendance by the government.
FC Dynamo Brest, one of Belarusian Premier League clubs, recuperates the loss in actual ticket sales in selling virtual tickets to fans, when their faces are plastered in mannequin and seated in sections they selected.
“Frankly, it’s not comprehendible how this can be going on,” Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, General- Secretary of the FIFPro players’ union, told reporters in a conference call, quoted in an article of ESPN about the ongoing Belarusian Premier League despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yes, there are players who are reaching out concerned,” Hoffmann added in the same report.
On the other hand, FIFA President Infantino praised the federations and associations pro-active involvement to communicate important health messages through football, aside from the fact the world football governing body is currently helping the World Health Organization (WHO) in promoting health messages via Public Service Announcement (PSA) featuring football stars, legend, and coaches and using FIFA social media accounts for dissemination.
FIFA also donated 10 million US Dollars to WHO Solidarity Fund for COVID-19 response.
Infantino is also bared the organization is putting an emergency fund, especially the world of football is not immuned on the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[For] the emergency relief fund… thanks to the work that we have been doing together in FIFA during the past four years, we are today in a very strong financial situation,” Infantino said via FIFA website. “FIFA enjoys a good reputation on the financial markets… This has helped us consolidate a solid foundation with large reserves. But our reserves are not FIFA’s money. It is football’s money. So when football is in need, we must think what we can do to help… It is our responsibility and our duty.”