Germany may have put themselves in the driving seat for a place at next year’s Nations League finals to be decided on Tuesday but they also face an ethics debate around the coronavirus pandemic.
Saturday’s 3-1 victory against Ukraine came a day after four players and a staff member from the visitors tested positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
Health officials in Leipzig allowed the game to take place but coach Joachim Loew and others had to field questions why footballers could go on playing even in such circumstances while a shutdown has been ordered in other areas of the country to contain the pandemic.
“I am the wrong person to answer. I don’t have the power to decide, that is done by the health office and (Europe’s governing body) UEFA,”Loew said.
“The Bundesliga is playing as well, and other leagues, too. We adhere to the guidelines. We can’t stay in the hotel when matches are scheduled.”
The Sueddeutsche zeitung on Sunday however said that domestic league games and internationals were very different amid the pandemic, naming the national team games “superspreader rallies” because teams field players who play in different leagues and countries.
“Playing this game was difficult to be responsible for concerning the health of football,” the paper said.
Loew expressed understanding that the debate on alleged privileges of the rich football scene are erupting again as restaurants, bars and cinemas had to close down again.
Loew said he was happy from a coaching point of view that the game was played and won, and Germany now only need a draw in Spain on Tuesday to reach next year’s final – with the match host city of Seville one of the virus risk areas for German health authorities.
There were also critical remarks from the amateur football scene and basketball Bundesliga player Benjamin Liscka tweeted “you can’t take it serious” that the game in Leipzig was played despite the positive cases.
Handball and basketball games in Germany have been cancelled owing to positive cases but like in football there is no group quarantine when players test positive.
But coronavirus cases have also played havoc with the football scene as other teams than Ukraine have also missed players, and Norway weren’t allowed to travel to Romania for Sunday’s match because health authorities originally ordered a 10-day quarantine.
Norway are now in danger of forfeiting the match despite protests from players and officials against their own authorities, and the same could have happened to Ukraine if the game hadn’t been played.
A poll on the website of Kicker sports magazine meanwhile saw a vast majority of 88.7 per cent of participants oppose internationals amid the current circumstances, and only 11.3 per cent in favour, as of 1600 GMT Sunday.