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Brazil v Spain: Gold Medal Match Men's Football - Olympics: Day 15
Fifa president Gianni Infantino wrote a letter to Boris Johnson asking that players be exempted from travel restrictions (Picture: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

So, Premier League clubs have ‘reluctantly’ decided to stop their players from travelling to red-list countries for the upcoming international break.

I’m assuming that’s with the same level of hesitancy that I would have in accepting an invitation to dinner with Beyonce Knowles.

While Covid is no laughing matter, the public face of this row hasn’t half made me chuckle. Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s letter to Boris Johnson was ‘Live at the Apollo’ level jokes.

Boris Johnson Visits Military Personnel Working On UK Operation In Afghanistan
(Picture: Adrian Dennis-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

He proclaimed: ‘Many of the best players in the world compete in leagues in England and Spain and we believe these countries also share the responsibility to preserve and protect the sporting integrity of competitions around the world.’

Yes, that’s right folks. Nothing says ‘sporting integrity’ like the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. I’ll spare you another column full of disdain but, you know, read the news, ask the world’s most credible human rights organisations and check the receipts.

Rightfully, at least for now, No.10 batted it away. Someone who kicks a football for a living should not be any less exempt from travel restrictions than a heartbroken, hard-working son or daughter who can ill afford to visit their elderly parents because of the unrealistic sacrifices, both in terms of time and money, that would entail.

If we are going to start handing out exemptions, that’s a much better place to start. In short, almost 60 players from the Premier League were due to travel to 26 red-zone countries.

Almost every top-flight club is potentially affected. Only Burnley can keep their noses clean in this row, unless they make an audacious bid to sign Naymar over the weekend.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was left disappointed after he was unable to play for Brazil
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was left disappointed after he was unable to play for Brazil (Picture: Getty)

So, to the Premier League, who say, ‘If required to quarantine… not only would players’ welfare and fitness be significantly impacted but they would also be unavailable to prepare for and play in two Premier League matches, a Uefa club competition match-day and the third round of the EFL Cup.’

Ah yes, the biggie! The third round of the Carabao Cup. I’m so glad that got a mention! All Premier League sides take that competition so seriously after all!

Still, they are bang right. It’s ludicrous to expect clubs to lose their players for three games. Their prize assets, to whom they pay millions, holed up in an airport hotel. I’d add a fourth game to allow for a return to full match fitness.

I love international football, most of my all-time heroes wore the green and white of Northern Ireland, but on this one I’m with the Premier League.

As is so often the case, Fifa’s stance comes with an arrogance. Club football has had to adapt massively just to stay functional, yet Fifa wants everybody to dance to its largely inflexible tune.

However, my side did split at the idea clubs took the decision ‘reluctantly’, although I’m sure I didn’t laugh half as hard as Sir Alex Ferguson.

Famously, Fergie was known for his tricks when it came to international call-ups, particularly for friendlies. The likes of Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand have talked openly about this, but he wasn’t the only one. Not then, not now.

While there is a lot of circumstantial evidence involved, and a very public game of chess to be played, there’s no doubt many managers would privately admit to cursing the very existence of international breaks.

Maybe this whole row could have been avoided had dozens of Premier League players, all at once, felt a sudden tightening of the calf, or a faint pull of a hamstring.

MORE : Premier League clubs refuse to release players to red list countries during international break

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Source: Metro Sport

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