¿What if football could help in this COVID-19 crisis?

Considering that crowded closed spaces, and coexistence in short distances, are two of the greatest risk factors for being infected with COVID-19, the probability that soccer players have of being infected with SARS-Cov-2 is possibly similar to that of other professionals who are also gradually returning to their jobs. However, footballers will be more protected by having RT-PCR tests every few days, and by being in an age range where COVID-19 complications are very rare. Footballers’ access to these tests, limited for other professionals, can produce outrage and rejection in the society. But what if the return of football could help?

At this time, there are many uncertainties about whether the measures that we are taking to return to “normality” are the ideal ones to stop the pandemic COVID-19. The damn R0 reproductive coefficient, which is estimated three times higher than that of the flu, needs to be lowered through measures as social distancing, masks, frequent hand washing, etc. But, will these actions be enough? Or perhaps they are excessive? Is bus transportation or take flights dangerous? What if footballers help us to learn more about this coronavirus?

In the next two months, footballers, and the workers that surround them on a daily basis, could help us to carry out a valuable study where almost two thousand individuals would be monitored, providing information on the efficacy of new habits. This is a scenario where everyone wins: the players are more protected by the tests and by the monitoring of specialists, and the rest of society will have scientific data that will facilitate our daily tasks.

This would require specialized scientists, such as epidemiologists, virologists, or statisticians. It would be reasonable that football associations and donations pay for this research, and also the purchase of the equipment and reagents necessary for the intense diagnostic task. In addition, they could also perform tests among the population on the days that footballers do not need them and, later, donate this diagnostic infrastructure and keep its costs for community use. This plan will be difficult if clubs don’t assume that some top players could stop playing for weeks if they are infected. They have to realize that, in the eyes of the public, every team can be champion this season. So, maybe one day people will stand on their balconies to dedicate an applause to those guys who were so supportive and brave, helping us to get back to normal. Perhaps football players have the opportunity to receive the applause of their lives.

Julián Cerón Madrigal