'People are dead and dying' - Wolves boss slams 'absurd' decision to continue playing

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were forced to travel to Greece in the middle of the outbreak despite requesting the fixture be suspended.

Nuno Espirito Santo (file pic).
Nuno Espirito Santo (file pic).

WOLVES MANAGER Nuno Espirito Santo believes it is “absurd” to keep football going amid the widespread chaos caused by the coronavirus outbreak. 

On Wednesday the World Health Organisation officially declared a pandemic as the disease continues to spread across the globe. 

All sporting activity in China, the first country where Covid-19 was detected, has been halted for over a month, with Italy following suit this week as cases multiply in the European nation — including two footballers, Juventus’ Davide Rugani and Manolo Gabbiadini of Sampdoria. 

Other countries, however, have refused to stop professional football, with Liverpool even playing their Champions League last-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid in front of a packed Anfield on Wednesday. 

In contrast, both Manchester United’s Europa League victory over LASK and Wolves’ meeting with Olympiakos took place behind closed doors on Thursday – but Nuno questions the logic of holding such games at all. 

“You play a game of football and then realise what is happening worldwide — people dead and dying. Then we play a game of football — it’s absurd,” he told  BT Sport  ahead of kick-off in Athens.

The manager’s words reflect the position of his employers, who pushed for Thursday’s last-16 match to be postponed due to the outbreak — a request that was dismissed by UEFA. 

Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis had tested positive for the virus, but the Greek club’s squad and staff were screened ahead of the game and tested negative.

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“Our position is that the trip poses an unnecessary risks to our players, staff, supporters and the families of all who travel, at such critical and uncertain times,” a Wolves statement published on the club’s website read.

Our concern is also for our opponents, whose players and staff have today been tested, and will now be expected to play their part in an important fixture, under the difficult and challenging circumstances of their owner suffering with the virus.

“There is also disappointment that the match will be played without home and away supporters, as that is part of what makes European competition so special, as well as the fact our fans have already contended with similar obstacles on our Europa League journey already this season.

“We believe that there are some things that are more important than football, and that the good health of our pack and the general public is one of them. However, we respect the decision of Uefa and the integrity of the competition, and we will travel tomorrow to Greece to play the fixture.

“We hope that our request to Uefa, and our acceptance of their decision, can act as the catalyst for them to consider alternative options moving forwards, as this will not be the last fixture to be affected by coronavirus.”

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