I have to admit that I am grateful to the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) for publishing their “return to football protocol series,” as these times are certainly not the best for a football columnist. The second protocol, the sequel of a potential trilogy, was published this week to regulate mainly the match-day operations. With this new addition of 123 rules, the total number of “advise” given to the clubs reached a staggering amount of 363. In comparison, the Ministry of Health issued only 51 rules for the reopening of shopping malls. For those who claim that football is no different than other sectors, the number of details that must be taken into consideration to restart the game should be a sufficient response.
However, my favorite among the 123 new pieces of advice is the one on page 46, under the title of “match-day operations.” The fifth point on the list says, “Whenever the ball is touched without a rubber glove, the ball must be disinfected.” This made me smile as I could not believe how the TFF's health committee missed the basic logical flaw with this one. As you know, the most contagious area on our body is our face, particularly our mouth and nose. So, what happens when a player heads the ball? According to scientific papers, on average a player heads the ball six to 12 times during one game. Excluding goalkeepers, this means the ball might come into contact with someone’s head or face at least 120 times on the pitch. Are we going to disinfect the ball every time a player heads the ball? Or does the health committee of the TFF think it is not dangerous to hit a ball with a sweaty head?
The rest of the second protocol is no different than the first one, and my criticism of the first still stands. These advisory protocols are incredibly complex to implement and completely ignore lower division teams, let alone the inevitable contact of football players on the pitch. The proponents of the protocol argue that since other countries like Germany also decided to continue, we also can. Nevertheless, the fact that Germany makes a decision does not make that decision automatically correct for Turkey as well. Added to that, Germany’s decision is also controversial, as former Dortmund player Neven Subotic complained that the decision was not discussed with players before it was made.
To make matters worse, two players from Dynamo Dresden, a team in the second division, tested positive for the coronavirus and now the whole team needs to be quarantined for two weeks. Just five days before the return of football in Germany, a second division team already lost two of their games and depending on the situation, this number could climb further. This means in the case that multiple teams are quarantined, the league would be incredibly weird as some teams would lose at the beginning. The TFF’s protocol does not mention any total quarantine of a team but an individual quarantine of up to 14 days. Given the virus may inflict permanent damage to the lungs, this is a very risky approach as the player might also infect his or her teammates. I think it is still not too late to see the inapplicability of the TFF’s approach and come up with a more humane and feasible plan.