Unfair to scapegoat Callum Robinson amid a football-wide problem

The Ireland star recently admitted he had not been vaccinated.

Ireland's Callum Robinson (file pic).
Ireland's Callum Robinson (file pic).
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

CALLUM ROBINSON’S social media account is undoubtedly not a fun place to be at the moment.

The West Brom star has been heavily criticised this week, after confirming on Tuesday that he was still unvaccinated.

“It’s everyone’s personal choice,” he told reporters. “I can’t tell anyone to get it and I can’t tell people not to.”

He later added: “As I said, it’s obviously annoying that I’ve caught [Covid-19] twice but I haven’t been vaccinated. Further down the line I could change my mind and want to do it but at this moment in time I haven’t been vaccinated, no.”

The consistent flak Robinson has received is due in part to the fact that he chose to be honest about the matter to a degree.

It is remarkable that in this era of endless ‘personal’ announcements on social media, Robinson is one of the very few British-based footballers to admit to not being vaccinated by choice — Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka also turned down a jab, albeit, in that case, the Swiss FA made the revelation.

It is possible to disagree with his choice while still feeling uneasy about the endless abuse that has come his way over the past 48 hours.

The fact that Robinson did not elaborate on the reasons for his stance complicates the situation further.

One thing is certain though — he is far from an anomaly. He is not even the only player in the Ireland squad to make this choice, albeit manager Stephen Kenny suggested the number of unvaccinated players was in “single fingers”.

According to BBC Sport, just 49% of players in the English Football League are fully vaccinated.

These figures are in stark contrast to society at large. For example, it was recently confirmed that over 90% of people in Ireland aged over 16 are now fully vaccinated against Covid.

Football’s issue is also not necessarily mirrored in other sports. A report in The Irish Independent yesterday revealed that there had been a 99.2% vaccine uptake rate among rugby players.

In August, NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills claimed the league had reached a vaccination rate of nearly 93% among its players and above 99% among staff members.

Last week, it was claimed that the vaccination rate for NBA players had risen to 95%.

There are some high-profile exceptions in American sports too of course, but football (or soccer as they call it), in particular, seems to be lagging behind compared to the rest of society.

And so far, no high-profile player in England has publicly explained in any great detail the reasons behind their controversial choice.

As Dr Christine Loscher, the Professor of Biotechnology and Associate Dean for Research at Dublin City University, explained on Off the Ball this week: “Two of the key myths of Covid vaccination that have been targeted at young people have been around the issue of fertility and virility. Initially, there was a huge outcry about the vaccine and potential fertility issues. What’s important is that people understand where those pieces of misinformation came from.

“Really that misinformation was if you get the Covid vaccine and you produce antibodies to spike protein, those antibodies can attack proteins that are involved in your fertility. There was absolutely no scientific basis for this but of course, social media and the anti-vaxxers picked it up and then I suppose people stopped looking for where the information came from and just took the information at face value.

“With social media, people take at face value a single event, first of all, that it’s true and it’s associated with vaccination.

“There have been 6.3 billion doses of Covid vaccine given throughout the world and these are not side effects that have come and been proven scientifically to be true. Social media really doesn’t encourage people to look at where the information came from.”

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Stephen Kenny himself recently confirmed he had been fully vaccinated and pointedly said he was happy to trust the medical experts.

So clearly, the Irish boss doesn’t agree with the stance of Robinson and a few others in his squad.

Kenny has been very strong on social issues in the past, such as when his players were booed against Hungary when taking the knee.

In this instance, however, the manager seemingly feels he cannot afford to take too strong a stand on the matter, thereby potentially alienating some key players.

Many would argue his job is on the line amid the upcoming games, and another big controversy would only serve to intensify the pressure so his diplomacy, whether or not people agree with it, is understandable.

The choice of Robinson and many others though is less explicable.

The Sunday Times recently reported that “some players have been sharing misinformation in WhatsApp groups, including social media posts by former Southampton striker Matt Le Tissier, which has fuelled concern”.

While it may not necessarily apply to Callum Robinson, the above sentence epitomises the main issue.

Football’s vaccination problem is a testament to the power of misinformation and groupthink in the social media age.

And at a time when Kenny could badly do with the appearance of a united front, another deeply divisive issue is threatening to undermine his squad.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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