More trouble for the national team boys before the decisive matches.
The A national team’s departure to Norway’s Nations League matches in Romania and Austria has been postponed. The Norwegian Football Association writes in a press release on Saturday.
The first match against Romania in Bucharest will take place already on Sunday night with the match starting at 20.45.
At a meeting on Saturday morning, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has announced that they are setting foot on the itinerary for Lars Lagerbäck’s men, reports NFF.
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The feedback the football association has received is that the trip challenges the provisions of the Norwegian regulations. NFF further writes that they believe the regulations have not taken into account situations such as the one they have ended up in now.
On Friday, it became known that the national team’s vice-captain, Omar Elabdellaoui, tested positive for the coronavirus. Later that day, the NFF decided to travel to the matches in Romania and Austria with a reduced squad, where the five players from the Elite Series were sent home from the collection. The idea was that a national team squad consisting only of players living abroad would be a sufficient measure.
According to the Norwegian regulations, close contacts of the infected must be quarantined for ten days.
NFF states that on Saturday afternoon they sent a letter to the Ministry of Health with their plans for the trip to be completed.
Different rule interpretation
NFF announces that they are now sending a written application to the Ministry of Health.
– When the Norwegian Directorate of Health puts its foot down, we have asked the squad to remain in Norway until we get a new assessment. We have Norwegian legislation on a side that we interpret differently. If we do not travel, we are breaking the European community of which we are a part. We, and not least the players, lose an opportunity to qualify for the World Cup should we fail in the first round, says President Terje Svendsen of the Norwegian Football Association.
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– We lose the chance for a pool winner that would give promotion to level A and hence more attractive opponents and that this has very large financial consequences for us. In addition, as the only country in UEFA, we will not compete in mandatory matches that we have committed to. This is a very demanding situation, Svendsen continues.
The Norwegian players have been tested four times since arriving in Norway, and no later than Friday night. All 39 test results received are negative, NFF points out in the press release.
Nakstad: – Exceptions only in case of danger to life and health
Espen Nakstad, assistant health director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, does not agree with the football association’s presentation of the case. In an e-mail to NTB he writes:
“The Norwegian Directorate of Health does not put its foot down, we have only referred to the covid-19 regulations’ provisions that close contacts with an infected person must be quarantined for ten days. The Covid-19 regulations allow for exceptions from the infection quarantine only in cases where it is necessary to avoid danger to life and health “, Nakstad points out.
The association has been in dialogue with the Romanian Football Association, which welcomes the Norwegian squad. In Romania, they must be confident that the UEFA protocol provides a good framework for the match.
But the UEFA protocol thus differs from the Norwegian regulations. According to NRK, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has communicated to NFF that UEFA’s rules do not comply with Norwegian law. The ten-day quarantine applies to players and the support staff in the Norwegian squad in accordance with Norwegian rules.
– Means a lot to us
In a joint statement, the captain team of the Norwegian national team, Stefan Johansen and Martin Ødegaard, says that the matches against Romania and Austria mean a lot to the players.
– If we do not field teams, it means that we lose two games. That means a lost opportunity to qualify for the World Cup. We are, of course, concerned about the increased contagion situation in society. That is why we do everything in our everyday lives so as not to expose others to risk. As football players, we have lived in quarantine for six months. We do what we can to keep football going. These matches mean a lot to us, says Stefan Johansen and Martin Ødegaard in the statement.
On Saturday, it was also announced that the authorities in Austria are shutting down society, in line with what they did in the country in March. The shutdown will last until the beginning of December, reports NTB.
Norway’s match against Austria in Vienna is scheduled for Wednesday with the match starting at 20.45.
Earlier this week, the planned training match against Israel at Ullevaal was canceled. It happened following calls from the Norwegian health authorities and a case of infection in Israel’s squad.
Captain team critical
On Saturday, the national team players also made a statement about the situation. On behalf of the players, Stefan Johansen, Martin Ødegaard and Joshua King write the following:
The whole group of players is deeply despairing that the Norwegian authorities refuse us to travel to the two decisive Nations League matches against Romania and Austria.
We were at Gardermoen, the plane was loaded and was to take off in an hour when the message about. We have complied with the very strict UEFA protocol at the meeting. It involves corona tests before we traveled to Norway, and after arrival we have been tested five times. After the case of infection was discovered, all the players and the support staff tested negative twice.
We live in quarantine at the hotel, wear face masks, have fever measurements, our own dining and meeting room where social distance is maintained and we are separated from everyone else. A dedicated corona doctor is with us throughout the collection.
We travel with our own transport to the airport, have our own charter plane with room for 130 people, even if we were to travel with only 39 people. In Romania we follow the same UEFA protocol and are in quarantine at the hotel. Our opponent is informed about our one case of infection, and has confirmed that they follow the UEFA protocol and will play against us.
Norwegian authorities say we can board a plane and travel home with the risk of infection it entails, but we are refused to fly in controlled forms with our own charter plane.
The Norwegian authorities have agreed to the UEFA protocol, but when an infection occurs, it does not apply in contrast to all other countries. In the last few days, 43 A-national matches have been played. No one has been canceled despite cases of infection in several nations. The background is the strict UEFA protocol that makes it safe to play. Israel, who got a player infected after arriving in Oslo this week, put the player in isolation, before training twice in Oslo and traveling on to the Czech Republic to play international matches.
For four years we have worked really hard to optimize the chances of qualifying for the championship and advanced more than 40 places in the FIFA rankings. We can move up to the A-group in the Nations League and meet Europe’s best team, we can be ranked among the 20 best nations in Europe that give us the second best seeding level before the World Cup qualifiers. Not playing the international matches against Romania and Austria can quickly crush our sporting ambitions both in the short and long term.
We experience little understanding and willingness to understand our situation. We have sacrificed our domestic Elite Series players on the national team to comply with the Norwegian quarantine regulations, but we in foreign clubs are also denied travel. This is a practice we do not see anywhere else in football Europe.
We are now in our second day of training without training, but have still not given up hope of playing against Romania and Austria. We love to represent our country and hope the Norwegian authorities give us the green light to travel, so we will continue to be good infection control ambassadors as we have been since the pandemic broke out in March.
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