Before the latest international break of bad football with a side of fervent nationalism, Premier League clubs agreed to not release players for World Cup qualifiers involving countries on the UK’s travel red-list, as they would’ve needed to quarantine for ten days upon their return — with neither FIFA nor the UK government willing to grant exemptions to that rule, unlike earlier in the pandemic.
As it turns out, those players might have to miss out this weekend anyway, thanks to a “five-day rule” which is apparently a thing, and gives FIFA the power to ban players from any and all football matches for five days following an international period for which the players were not released — i.e. to punish clubs for withholding players from unnecessary travel, fatigue, and injury/COVID risk. In Chelsea’s case, that would mean that Thiago Silva wouldn’t be eligible for Saturday’s game against Aston Villa and Tuesday’s game against Zenit St. Petersburg since they both fall within that September 10-14 period.
The Brazilian national team were most affected by this, with nine players held back, but they have been joined by Chile, Mexico, and Paraguay as well in asking FIFA to invoke this rule.
Notably, Argentina have not joined in with this request because their four Premier League-based players left their clubs anyway, and will now have to quarantine for ten days — and of course they didn’t even get to play against Brazil thanks to the farcical scenes that played out during their qualifier, which was shut down by authorities for said players breaking quarantine rules.
It’s that dichotomy that the head of the European Club Association pointed to earlier that should give the Premier League negotiating leverage as they work to avoid this five-day ban. How can Brazil complain about teams in England not releasing their players when the Brazilian authorities prevented Argentina from playing with players arriving from England?
“This has to be sorted it out within the next 24 hours – Liverpool and the other clubs need to know if they can play their Brazilians or not or whether FIFA is going to enforce the five-day rule for not releasing the players. If FIFA is not going to sanction the clubs then they need to tell them.
“It also needs to be explained how Brazilian players based in England should have been able to avoid quarantine there but not Argentina players. We think FIFA has abused its position and they have to sort it out because we need to know if the five-day rule is going to be imposed.”
“We don’t think there should be sanctions because if a player has to quarantine he is unavailable to immediately play for his club again, so it would be longer than the agreed release period. We asked FIFA to extend the exception for players having to be released for international duty but they chose not to.”
-Charlie Marshall, ECA CEO; source: The Athletic
Amusingly, Brazil asked for Everton to be excluded from the rule, since they allowed Richarlison to play in the Olympics, further underlining the arbitrary nature of all this nonsense.
The Premier League (who have the ECA’s “full support”) are hopeful of reaching a resolution by tomorrow that would allow the players affected to be eligible. FIFA could in theory impose a 3-0 forfeit on teams fielding ineligible players, though maybe we should do that anyway and start a true power struggle between clubs and the corrupt governing bodies who are only looking out for their own bag anyway. (Tell me about that biennial World Cup again, FIFA, yeah?)