FIFA Medical Committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe believes that resuming football before the start of September at the earliest could lead to a spike in coronavirus infections and has advocated the cancelling of the 2019/2020 season.
Football leagues across the world have been shut down since March due to the coronavirus pandemic which has infected over three million people and claimed over two hundred thousand lives worldwide.
With several countries extending restrictions on large gatherings beyond July, several European leagues have bitten the bullet and either voided their seasons or ended things as they currently stand.
On Tuesday, the French Ligue 1 followed the example of Holland’s Eredivisie in abandoning the season. A similar decision in Belgium is awaiting ratification.
However, some other leagues across Europe are exploring possible return dates in May or June.
Germany’s Bundesliga is awaiting government approval to restart behind closed doors on 19 May with players already back in training.
Meanwhile, the English Premier League has set up “Project Restart” in a bid to resume potentially on 8 June with games holding behind closed doors.
But D’Hooghe says any restart now runs the risk of escalating the spread of the virus adding that even playing with masks or carrying out significant levels of testing for coronavirus might not be enough.
“The world is not ready for competitive football, I hope this can change very quickly and I sincerely hope that. Today you need more patience,” D’Hooghe told Sky Sports News.
“This is the most dramatic situation we have lived in since the Second World War. We should not underestimate it, we must be realistic.
“Football can only be possible if contact is possible again. Football remains a contact sport and avoiding contact is one of the first things everyone says is that you should avoid contact.
“It’s still about social distancing. Testing is an important point but you have to repeat them. If one of the players becomes positive, you have to put the whole group into quarantine. Is that a solution for a normal competition?
“It’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of life and death. You cannot play in the Premier League when players are obliged to remain two metres from each other. You cannot ask Liverpool to play Manchester when all the players will keep a distance of two metres between them.
“Have you ever tried playing football in a mask?! This does not avoid social distancing.
“We do not know when it will reach its peak in different countries, it will be different in every country. The solution will only be there the day there is an adequate vaccination programme.”
In another interview with The Daily Telegraph, D’Hooghe stated his preference for the wholesale cancellation of the current season and the start of next season at the end of August or beginning of September
”We are all subject to decisions at national level from the public authorities. It is very simple. Football suddenly becomes not the most important thing in life,” he said.
”I will be happy if we can start, in a convenient way, the next championship and have nothing before the start of next season.
”If they could start the season 2020-21 end of August or beginning of September I would be happy. Then they could eventually avoid a second attack from the virus, which is not impossible.”
D’Hooghe also feels changes will have to be made to rules and regulations whenever football returns, including yellow cards if players are seen to spit during matches.
“Football has to be patient. It has to listen to the national authorities, and respect the basic [health] rules,” he added.
“Just because balls might be sterilised, it does not suddenly mean we can play football again”