“We have faced global problems together in the past and must continue to do so in the future. The release of players in the upcoming international windows is a matter of great urgency and importance,” Infantino said in a statement published on FIFA’s official website.
“I am grateful for the support and cooperation from many stakeholders in the game during this challenging period. I am calling on a show of solidarity from every member association, every league and every club to do what is both right and fair for the global game.
“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.
“On the issue of quarantine restrictions in England, for players returning from red-list countries, I have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and appealed for the necessary support, in particular, so players are not deprived of the opportunity of representing their countries in qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup.
“I have suggested that an approach similar to that adopted by the UK government for the final stages of the Euro 2020 be implemented for the upcoming international matches. Together we have shown solidarity and unity in the fight against Covid-19. Now, I am urging everyone to ensure the release of international players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”
CAF join FIFA call
Infantino’s plea has also been echoed by the Confederation of African Football, one of the regions hardest-hit by the leagues’ resolution along with South America.
“CAF has noted the current circumstances in place in Britain regarding the lack of sporting exemptions for players returning from several African countries after the international window next week,” the body affirmed.
“CAF, acting on behalf of all African Member Associations, African players and fans, has urged the British Government to urgently provide the required exemptions to enable African players to compete for their countries in the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers.
“CAF notes that similar exemptions were granted by the British Government to enable the attendance of delegations and officials, amongst others, at the finals of the European Championship held less than two months ago.
“It is further noted that the circumstances in the African countries on the red list in many cases are in fact less severe than other countries not currently on this list or for which exemptions were previously provided.
“Furthermore, CAF would like to reiterate that the upcoming matches will be delivered under the strict protocols developed by FIFA and applied across the world, as was the case in previous windows and continental tournaments successfully delivered without any incidents.
“These protocols have now proven beyond a doubt that they mitigate the risks involved, reflecting the success of commensurate protocols applied domestically in England and other parts of the world.
“In light of the above, CAF has appealed as a matter of urgency, to the Football Association (FA) and the British Government that the same treatment previously applied to Europe now be extended to Africa under the principles of solidarity and equal treatment.
The bigger picture
At the time of writing, more than 50 nations remain on the United Kingdom’s Covid ‘Red List’. This means that only UK Nationals or residents are cleared for travel, but they must complete a quarantine period upon arrival even if they have received vaccination.
In South America only Bolivia finds itself off the list, meaning Argentina, Brazil and Colombia will have to make do without their Premier League-based stars, while similar restrictions remain in place in Spain.
On Wednesday, Italy’s Serie A released a statement in which it pledged to support clubs who do not wish to release players for the upcoming window.
The outlook is similar to that of March, where amid rising cases in South America both CONMEBOL qualifying rounds were postponed, leaving a scheduling headache as the region looks to complete its marathon tournament in time for the finals in just over a year.
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