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CONMEBOL wants FIFA protection after virus postponements

By AFP - Mar 25,2021 - Last updated at Mar 25,2021

ASUNCION — CONMEBOL on Tuesday urged FIFA to protect its member federations after the postponement of South America’s latest round of World Cup qualifiers over coronavirus restrictions.

There were meant to be two rounds of CONMEBOL qualifiers this week but the governing body called them off.

This was because several European clubs threatened not to release their players, fearing they would be subject to COVID-19 quarantine rules and thereby miss club games.

Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool had threatened to prevent players from flying overseas for internationals should they be required to quarantine on their return.

“We’re asking President [Gianni] Infantino and FIFA to keep working eagerly to protect our associations and our football,” said CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez during the federation’s annual congress in Paraguay on Tuesday.

“We’re the only confederation in the world that maintained its qualification format and it’s because we adhere to the motto of ‘clear rules’ and that’s why we understand matches must be decided on the field of play,” added Domínguez.

However, world football’s governing body chief Infantino, who took part in the virtual meeting, said it would be tough to find a solution to the competing interests between Europe and South America.

“We’re going to have to agree on the future international calendar in the next few months, in the next year, and here it’s clear that a continent with historical traditions such as South America will play an important role,” said Infantino.

However, he added that “it’s the daily battle of a federation president, a confederation president and the FIFA president”.

All 10 South American countries remain on the UK government’s red list of nations for which strict travel restrictions apply.

UK-based players returning from those countries are subject to 10 days quarantine upon their return meaning they could miss up to three club matches.

Other countries such as France also currently employ travel restrictions that would affect returning footballers.

And another congress guest, Aleksander Ceferin, the president of European football’s governing body UEFA, expressed a desire to find a solution that suited everyone.

“The situation is still very difficult but the end of this pandemic is approaching,” he said.

“There is very good cooperation between UEFA and CONMEBOL. That’s why were united and why we know that we can emerge from this with the minimum possible wounds.”

CONMEBOL’s decision to postpone two rounds of qualifiers has created a problem for the region to complete its programme ahead of next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

It was already forced to reprogramme its first four matchdays after those were postponed due to the global pandemic.

Brazil currently top qualifying after winning their opening four matches while fellow continental giants Argentina are just behind after three wins and a draw.

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