EPL

Don't blame footballers for UK pandemic - Guardiola calls for COVID-19 perspective

By Sports Desk January 15, 2021

Pep Guardiola does not want Premier League footballers to become scapegoats for the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the UK.

The league and the Professional Footballers' Association have both issued directives this week urging players to abide by COVID-19 protocols when celebrating goals.

Those interventions came after England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said footballers should stop making "avoidable" contact with one another after goals were scored.

Manchester City boss Guardiola was recently criticised for defending Benjamin Mendy after his full-back celebrated New Year's Eve with three people from outside his household, in contravention of the UK government's coronavirus guidelines.

Kyle Walker and Phil Foden have also erred during the pandemic but, speaking at a news conference to preview Sunday's Premier League game against Crystal Palace, Guardiola insisted the behaviour of footballers - both good and bad - should be viewed in a wider context.

"We want to follow the protocols, I understand how sensitive everything is. I don’t think the problem, in the UK now, is because of the players," said the former Barcelona boss, who lost his mother to coronavirus last year.

"We can do as much as we can, as best as possible. When someone breaks the rules, like sometimes happens, it's not good.

"All the clubs have been clear. We know about the situation. Hopefully we cannot score a lot goals, we can be careful like in the beginning not to hug much but sometimes it's difficult - if you lose the emotion it's difficult.

"On the other side, I understand. A lot of businesses cannot do their jobs, they are closing. We are fortunate we can play football and do our job

"All the clubs, all the manager, doctors, all the clubs in Premier League, Champions League, Championship, League One and League Two, want to follow the rules. We are concerned about how difficult and how important the situation is in the UK. A lot of people are dying, unfortunately, and are infected every day.

"We are going to do our best to follow the new rules. The government and the scientists inform us what to do.

"But, please, the situation in the UK is not because of the football players. Don’t blame absolute responsibility on the players. It is a pandemic situation all around the world."

Eric Garcia is available to return for the Palace game after a positive coronavirus test, although reports in Spain suggest the young defender could complete a long-mooted move to Barcelona this month.

"I hope not but maybe the people in Barcelona know better, more than me," said Guardiola, who conceded the 20-year-old's departure is a possibility.

"I don’t know what's going to happen, but maybe it's going to happen."

City have a game in hand on the top two after going eight games unbeaten in the Premier League and could make up further ground this weekend as champions Liverpool host leaders Manchester United at Anfield.

Nevertheless, they have taken one point from their previous two home matches against Palace and Guardiola is duly wary of Roy Hodgson's side.

"A team like Crystal Palace knows exactly what they have to do," he added. "They are so, so clever. We saw it [in Thursday's 0-0 draw] against Arsenal.

"They can produce a lot of quality up front. It was really tough the last seasons here when we lost and we drew but we will try to convince the players to do our job."

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