You cannot play football and social distance, says Gary Lineker

The Bundesliga became the first major league to return behind closed doors after a two-month suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak (AFP)
The Bundesliga became the first major league to return behind closed doors after a two-month suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak (AFP)

By Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 17 May 2020, 7:24 PM

Last updated: Sun 17 May 2020, 9:34 PM

Known for his forthright views on a sport he played with distinction, Gary Lineker, the prolific England striker-turned commentator, sympathised with players that have been apprehensive about getting back on the pitch amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the Bundesliga became the first major league to return behind closed doors after a two-month suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, the house has been divided in England about the resumption of the English Premier League.
Some players have backed the British government's plan to restart sporting events next month, others, including Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, have openly voiced their concerns about resuming a contact sport at a time when the world still hasn't managed to negate the threat of Covid-19.
Now, former Tottenham and Barcelona striker Lineker, in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, sympathised with the nervous players.
"Safety is absolutely imperative. You can't social distance playing soccer. You just can't," Lineker told the CNN.
"I saw something the other day that there was a report that, well, what about, they could tackle, but, when they tackle, they could look away to move them out of the way? Absurd suggestions like that. You cannot play football and social distance.
"(Players) have families. Yes, they might be quarantined away from them for a while, but they are human beings. They will have worries. Some players will be desperate to get back to play. Other players won't. They will be nervous about getting back to play."

Gary Lineker, who won the golden boot with six goals in the 1986 World Cup, said footballers will get used to playing without fans
It's the reason why the English league, according to Linker, should be treading the situation carefully.
"I don't see why there's a rush," he said.
"I understand why there's a rush, because they want to get it finished before next season starts, which is normally in August. So they want to start in June to get it finished, and then have a little break, and then start the next season.
"But, realistically, is next season going to be interrupted? Probably yes. So, my suggestion is take your time with this one. Yes, finish it, because I think that's the fairest thing to do.
"And then -- then let's judge from there on. Obviously with the coronavirus, it's very fluid. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, let alone in four weeks' time. So, let's be patient."
However, Lineker, who won the golden boot with six goals in the 1986 World Cup, admitted that the German league has set the tone of the other leagues.
"I think we're all looking at the German league as -- well, they're setting the tone for everybody else because I think every league in Europe that wants to try and finish the season that was obviously interrupted is looking at Germany to see how it goes," Lineker said.
"So, yes, excited, but, at the same time, a little bit apprehensive."
Until the world finds a cure for a virus that has killed more than 300,000 people, Lineker believes players will eventually get used to playing in empty stadiums.
But he doubts whether the television audience can adjust to watching matches without the drama created by fans in the stands.
"I played in one game behind closed doors in my entire career, because we had some fan problems in the crowd. And it was a very strange experience," he said.
"I imagine, after a few games, they (players) will get used to it. But even watching football on television or soccer, our -- obviously, to your American viewers -- is very much different if you have not got a crowd.
"In fact, that's the same for pretty much every sport, because the crowd adds to it. It adds to the atmosphere. And it becomes more exciting to watch on the television.
"So, players, it'll be a little bit like training, in many ways, but more important than training. But I imagine they will get accustomed to it."
rituraj@khaleejtimes.com




More news from Sports