Opinion

Is the returning Bundesliga gambling with players' health?

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The Germans do not usually leave anything to chance in whatever they do yet the imminent resumption of Bundesliga 1 and 2 will be seen by the rest of the world as a gamble that could backfire.

Germany's two major leagues will restart in full swing behind closed doors next weekend after they were forced into hibernation by COVID-19 in mid-March.

The pressure to restart was enormous as the game stood to lose an equivalent of an estimated $1.3 billion if the leagues were cancelled.

Germany's interior minister Horst Seehofer at the weekend told the Bild newspaper that "there should be no extra privileges for the league" but chancellor Angela Merkel has now given football the green light to resume.

No doubt Merkel would have weighed the pros and cons before her government gave its blessing but the landmark decision nonetheless carries several health risks.

FIFA's medical chief Michel D'Hooghe, for example, has said that football should not be played until September at the earliest.

Yet the two professional leagues, eager to bring their season to an end, will now go ahead and become the first championships in western Europe to get the ball rolling again.

This after 10 players were found to be infected as a result of blanket testing of people involved with the 36 Bundesliga teams.

Bundesliga chief Christian Seifert has highlighted "the great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organisational requirements in a disciplined manner" so we'll keep our fingers crossed on this one and trust that the Germans know what they are doing.

The ramifications of this precarious situation could affect thousands of other players elsewhere, too.

You see, if the two Bundesliga competitions go off without a hitch for, say, two or three weeks other major leagues that are under huge economical pressure to resume will be greatly encouraged to follow suit even though they might appear to be not well prepared to do so yet. It's certainly a delicate balancing act.

The Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A are chomping at the bit to get started again even though England, Spain and Italy have been savagely hit by the coronavirus that so far has claimed an aggregate of 86,000 lives and counting.

We've got a similar situation in our neck of the woods where the Korea Republic will see the return of the K-League this weekend. No doubt the A-League will be an interested follower.  

What many people are forgetting is that although a return of football action would be a great psychological boost for all those hundreds of thousands who have been in lockdown for weeks the medical profession has been at great pains to emphasise that the pandemic is not over by any stretch of the imagination.

Footballers, like everyone else, are not immune to the danger.

Research from Germany and Italy suggests that footballers face a risk of the virus infecting their lungs, raising questions over the varied attempts to restart the professional game while Covid-19 is still rampant.

The research, produced by Italian immunologists and lung specialists based at institutes in Berlin, Rome and Verona, suggests that due to strenuous exercise, elite athletes are more likely to inhale virus particles and direct them to the lower areas of the lung, Reuters reports.

"The pattern of breathing during strenuous exercise changes dramatically by a tremendous increase of ventilation and of alveolar ventilation in particular," the authors stated.

"Professional athletes are particularly exposed (much more than individuals of common population) due to their frequent practice of extreme and long-lasting exercise."

Let's hope this all goes well.