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To Return or Not Return: The Dilemma Facing Footballers




Players face moral dilemma as football sets its sights on a swift return


To return or not return: The dilemma facing footballers 


With the resumption of football starting to pick up pace in England’s top division, many players find themselves in a difficult dilemma over whether to return to training with their club. Every player will be making the decision with more than just their career in mind. Players may feel a sense of duty, to return to their employer and perform for the fans. They may also feel a sense of fear, that returning to training to soon could impact negatively on their health and the health of their loved ones. The truth is, nobody knows the right solution. Players are being asked to make a decision blinkered, based on trust. Regardless of the decision made, there will be consequences on both sides. These are uncertain times, and players must be supported to make a decision that is right for them as individuals.
Already there are examples of players who have publicly made a firm choice. N’Golo Kante and Troy Deeney have immediately ruled out a return to training over safety concerns. Bizarrely, this decision has been met with  criticism from some sections of the football community. N’Golo Kante has been given permission by his club, Chelsea Football Club, to be absent from team training even if it means he misses the rest of the season. The French midfielder has not yet made a decision on when he will return to training, although safety concerns will not have been eased by the news of six positive coronavirus tests at three Premier League clubs. Watford defender Adrian Mariappa is one player who has confirmed he has tested positive for the virus. Clearly, this admission will have done little to improve the optimism of Watford captain Troy Deeney, who has also opted for a self imposed absence from team training.
Deeney, 31, has many reservations about a return to training, including concerns over the increased risk the virus poses to the BAME community. Deeney also explains “my son is only five years old, he had breathing difficulties, so I don’t want to come home to put him in more danger”. Watford Manager Nigel Pearson appears unconcerned about Deeney’s decision not to attend training, stating that “he is in very good physical shape”. Pearson has also publicly supported his players in making their own decisions on a return to training, and understands the reasons that some may wish to stay away at the present time. Watford Football Club have moved to reassure fans that the players who tested positive, and those who are self isolating in line with government guidance, “are all feeling OK”.
With a resumption of Premier League football being planned in the not too distant future, it is clear that complications and concerns threaten to stifle progress. With increased testing capacity, teams can begin to ensure that those who train and play are fit to do so. In order to achieve a safe return, a transparent approach must be adopted. Teams should respect the concerns that players have, and re-assure them with clear measures to support a return. Ultimately, it has to be the players decision. In a country where we cannot visit the homes of our own parents, or send our children to school, asking footballers to blindly accept a return to a team environment is unfair. As a football fan, I can’t wait to see a return to Premier League football, just not at the expense of the mental and physical well-being of those participating.


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