Last season, when Tottenham finished seventh to earn a Europa Conference League place, finished high enough but still low enough to be considered a joke, it created something of a loss-loss situation.
Although the competition gives some teams that otherwise would not have the chance to play in Europe and travel to fantastic arenas around the continent that they probably would not dream of being with before, for Spurs it is a bit embarrassing.
They were a Champions League club as late as 2020 and reached their final in 2019. The sharp decline they have experienced since then was summed up in their qualifiers for the Europa Conference League. A tournament where they have already lost twice.
They could qualify for their preliminary play-off round if they improve on Vitesse’s results on Thursday night, but right now there is something much bigger at stake than Europe’s third club competition.
Tottenham are in the middle of a Covid-19 crisis, with a total of 13 people testing positive.
Right now there is no confirmation that the match against Rennes will be canceled, but Antonio Conte looked obviously emotional during his press conference on Wednesday, where he briefly previewed the match.
He said he had 11 players available and shortly after, one of his starts tested positive.
The Italian added: “Everyone is a little scared, we all have families. I ask why? Why? Yesterday [Tuesday] we trained and two positives, today we trained and after two more positives. Who’s next? That’s not right, we’re going home to our families. “
This is what it’s all about.
Despite what you may hear from whatever government you are under, regardless of whether they belittle any parties that may have progressed or not – tonight, Prime Minister! – This is not just a football player. They are people with families. They remain as susceptible to coronavirus as the rest of us, no matter how ill it may actually make them. There are known examples of extremely well-trained football players – Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin is one – who catches Covid-19 and experiences terrible long-lasting COVID symptoms.
There are no positive arguments for Thursday’s match to continue, regardless of what demands UEFA has made on squad availability. Nothing good can come from forcing a team ravaged by illness to play. If anything, it damages the credibility of a competition that is already seen as a mockery everywhere by football fans.
Common sense must prevail. Tottenham Way should be shut down for the time being, staff sent home to their families and kept safe, and allowed to return when it is reasonable to do so. Forcing them to play is irresponsible and ruthless.
We do not know how much governing bodies really care about the welfare of players around the world. Plans for extended game schedules are still being put forward, with little recognition of the amount of miles football players have put in in recent years.
The pandemic is still at large. The virus makes the rounds at Tottenham – potentially a new, more harmful variant – and the club and Rennes do not seem eager to play.
The Premier League should support Tottenham if they decide to shut down for ten days or so. If UEFA does not do so, a suspension or even a suspension from Spurs should be considered.
Fans care about their players. If there are no moral reasons for the game to continue, then it should not.
For now, we are waiting to be told if it will be played. If it does, it would be nothing short of a shameful display of non-leadership. And I think I can speak for most people when I say that what’s going on right now is enough.
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