Wednesday 04 August 2021

Corona casts cloud over Eredivisie season as players and staff test positive

Will the Eredivisie be suspended again?

Outbreaks of coronavirus at several Eredivisie clubs is raising questions about whether the league season can continue as scheduled.

Eight members of PSV Eindhvoven’s squad, including captain Denzel Dumfries, were missing for the weekend match at Vitesse Arnhem after testing positive for the virus.

‘I’m worried about the health of the players and their families,’ PSV coach Roger Schmidt said after Sunday’s game, which Vitesse won 2-1. ‘What do we do if one of us has to go to hospital or even ends up in intensive care? Should we still carry on playing football?’

The situation is even more acute at AZ Alkmaar, where 15 squad members are in quarantine. AZ managed a creditable 1-0 win at Napoli in the Europa League last week despite having only 19 players available to travel. Among the absentees was last season’s top scorer Myron Boadu.

‘I’m concerned first of all for the health of the lads themselves,’ manager Arie Slot told Fox Sports. ‘But we also have coaching staff who are older and there’s the players’ families as well.’

150 cases

The first positive tests came a week before the season resumed on September 12, when FC Utrecht announced that two of their players were self-isolating with the virus. Utrecht’s opening match was at home to AZ.

Altogether around 150 positive tests have been recorded among players, training staff and other employees in the professional game. The men’s and women’s senior football leagues are the only competitive sports allowed in the Netherlands under the current restrictions.

All clubs are following a protocol drawn up by the KNVB which requires players to stay in ‘bubbles’ with their squad as much as possible and take regular tests. Problems arise when they go home to their families or go to training sessions while waiting for the results of their tests, as happened at PSV during the week.

Sports minister Tamara van Ark said on Sunday after a cabinet meeting that there was no reason to suspend the competition. ‘As far as I can see it is safe enough to play football,’ she said. ‘The most important thing is to keep to the guidelines and only play if it’s safe.’

European football matches such as Atalanta Bergamo against Valencia in last season’s Champions League are thought to have contributed to the spread of the virus at the start of the outbreak, when games were still played in full stadiums. But transmission between players is unavoidable once the virus gets into a squad, said Schmidt.

‘We’re doing everything we can and keeping to all the rules. Yet in the last round of testing there were three new positive cases,’ he said. ‘The virus is uncontrollable.’

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