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Maurício Alencar – football culture and full writer portfolio

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Jabbing: on and off the pitch

Off the pitch, some footballers aren’t getting jabbed. In the last week: Sajid Javid, the current health secretary for HM Government, expressed that he is “disappointed” several England footballers have not taken the COVID jab; Jurgen Klopp compared not taking the jab to drink driving; a report said that only seven Premier League clubs have over 50% of their squad vaccinated; players can only travel to red-list countries for internationals if they are fully vaccinated.

Footballers not getting jabbed is certainly a problem that has its wider impacts. As club players and staff do often travel around Europe and the rest of the world, it is only right that footballers get their jabs for their own protection and the protection of others. It was about time that discussions, as well as official regulations, concerning COVID jabs were going to be brought up in football. And a hot topic it certainly has become. 

On the other hand, on the pitch, some players are having a great time jabbing others. The new lenient Premier League foul rules this season mean that players can “go out and express themselves”, that games in the Premier League can “flow”, and that referees don’t have to “intervene for trivial offences”, according to Mike Riley. The new rules perfectly coincide with the return of fans: fire generates more fire. 

This symbiosis between fans demanding contact and players committing to contact can result in some particularly nasty scenarios. As Neville commented on Sky Sports Monday Night Football of an un-penalised Tarkowski tackle on Richarlison in mid-Septmeber, “that challenge cannot be encouraged by not being booked”. The lenient rules may be a slippery slope to severe injuries. Solksjaer said the rules make football like rugby. Klopp compared football to wrestling.

Arsenal fans will know. The names Martin Taylor, Ryan Shawcross, and Paddy McNair will make Arsenal fans’ stomachs twirl, and especially make Eduardo, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere’s hearts melt. Some rash challenges on a football pitch have hindered clubs’ fortunes, and destroyed players’ careers altogether. While the entertainment factor is undoubtedly enthralling, the potential for mistiming a wild tackle may have severe consequences.

So, some are jabbing but not getting jabbed, giving ‘a taste of their medicine’ to other players but not getting medical treatment themselves. 

They may be completely unrelated topics of conversation. Injury and illness takes a different toll on one’s body. They may yet be totally related subjects of conversation. One’s own health, as well as the health of those around, is just about the most critical thing in life. Only recently have people begun to widely realise that injuries, such as concussions and other head injuries, can have a serious knock-on effect and cause illnesses such as dementia. A nonchalant outlook to injuries versus a radical perspective to illness does not seem consistent. 

Premier League football, as well as the wider football community, finds itself at a crossroads. Will officials bring in vaccine passports to the great benefits of others against the fairly moderate benefits of the individual footballers? But will the same officials alternatively continue on with lenient foul rules against the very serious potential costs of footballers to the marginal benefit of spectators? The kinds of restrictions officials put on jabbing, both on and off the pitch, will be an important indicator of what attitudes to injuries and illnesses are in the game and beyond.

Published on Footrace.

image credits BW / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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