With a rising number of COVID-19 cases taking place all over the world, FIFA and the various continental confederations thought it was a great idea to not only keep the October international break. As a result, one of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, tested positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Portugal.
The Portuguese Football Federation revealed in a statement that Ronaldo is “doing well, without symptoms, and in isolation” but will miss Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League game against Sweden. The PFF also reported that the rest of the squad tested negative and will be able to play but this picture posted by Ronaldo yesterday shows that the rest of the Portuguese team, and maybe even the Swedish team, should be concerned.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) October 12, 2020
This isn’t to say Ronaldo was irresponsible and he went out to eat with the squad knowing he was sick. If he’s asymptomatic, Ronaldo probably didn’t know he had COVID at that time. That being said, while he didn’t know, he most likely had it while out to eat and it can take days for people to test positive so the Portuguese squad isn’t out of the woods yet.
Then again, it wasn’t exactly a good idea to have an international break in the first place. While club leagues can better maintain and control potential outbreaks within their own country, an international break where every European (Nations League) and South American (World Cup qualifying) country is playing was seen as irresponsible from some before the international break even happened. The players on each international team play all over the world and are all coming together to play multiple games in multiple countries and they’ll all come back to be with their club teams within the span of a week (pending if there is a mandatory quarantine). Whatever the opposite of a bubble is, this is it.
The result has seen more players testing positive for COVID-19 and, depending on the country, mandatory quarantines for those who come back from international duty. Typically in friendlies, clubs have the ability to block international call-ups but because the Nations League and World Cup qualifying are officially recognized FIFA competitions, clubs initially had no choice but to release their players.
Some MLS teams tried to fight that this month, citing that a possible quarantine lasting up to two weeks could result in a player missing up to six games. After initial opposition, FIFA relented and gave clubs the ability to not release a player if their mandatory quarantine was longer than five days but many players still went for fear their standing within their international team would be under threat.
Either way, what’s done is done and now one of the best players in the world has COVID-19. There is another international break next month and well, don’t hold your breath that anyone within FIFA learned any lessons.