By J Hutcherson (Aug 25, 2020) US Soccer Players - In this era of pretending that it might be possible to have reasonable control of a situation, it has to be tough to be a governing body. On Monday, FIFA released a set of temporary regulations for the September international window. With UEFA the only confederation using the September dates, the regulations only apply in Europe. Still, it's an indication of what could be an ongoing issue for getting international games in this Fall.
At issue is requiring club teams to release players. FIFA is adapting to the coronavirus protocols in various countries by acknowledging that they exist. It's a necessary move, but one that could further disrupt the level of competition for games that count in Europe. UEFA is pushing ahead with the second edition of the Nations League, with the region starting the tournament next week.
"The Bureau of the FIFA Council has, after consultation with UEFA, decided that the general rules which normally oblige clubs to release players for national team matches should not apply in the following instances," the statement reads. "there is a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days upon arrival at: the location of the club which has an obligation to release the player to an association team; or the location where a representative team match is scheduled to take place; there is a travel restriction to or from either location (a. or b. above); and no specific exemption from the relevant authorities relating to the above decisions has been granted to players of a representative team."
In other words, the pandemic is dictating the situation for the September window. That's not exactly surprising considering what we already know. What it also might be is an indication of future difficulties with trying to maintain a new normal.
UEFA concluded both its club tournaments at neutral sites without any issues. That's success up to a point, considering the amount of isolation and testing required to see those plans through. The various European leagues weren't overburdened with the kind of travel required in larger countries. That lessened the risk, but that's relative to broader social isolation and attempts at prevention. The European leagues weren't acting alone in social distancing and wearing masks. We still saw examples of fans congregating around big events across Europe where being a fan took precedence over safety.
It's that broader mixed message that's so troubling right now across sports. Everyone is supposed to be responsible, even when sports at its best includes setting aside responsibility. The crowd counts. Otherwise, the games risk turning into a series of glorified friendlies celebrated in strange isolation.
On Tuesday, UEFA announced that it would allow 20,000 fans into the Super Cup just under a month from now in Budapest. That's in line with leagues around Europe looking to get fans back into their stadiums sooner than later during the 2020-21 season. Again, this is happening during an ongoing pandemic and running hand-in-hand with reports of the potential for reinfection.
"While it has been important to show that football can carry on in difficult times, without fans, the game has lost something of its character," UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in the press release announcing the move. "We hope to use the UEFA Super Cup in Budapest as a pilot that will begin to see the return of fans to our matches. We are working closely with the Hungarian Federation and its government to implement measures to ensure the health of all those attending and participating in the game. We will not take risks with people's safety."
The problem for all of us is we don't really know what safety means. Universities thought that they could safely reopen for in-person classes for the Fall semester. We now know that they were wrong. Major League Baseball thought that they could safely conduct games in local markets rather than a bubble. We now know how difficult that's proving to be. And so on in this era where we simply just don't know enough.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from J Hutcherson:
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- What we learned from Europe this season
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