BERN (Reuters) - Some professional soccer players in Latin America and Africa are relying on food packages during the novel coronavirus stoppage while elsewhere others are being pressured into returning to play, sometimes without testing, FIFPRO said on Wednesday.
As football begins to reawaken following the sport’s suspension, the global players’ union, which has affiliates in 65 countries, said the consequences for some of its members away from the mainstream leagues had been dire.
“There is an under-representation of the hardship that many players in less pronounced parts of the football ecosystem are facing,” FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told reporters.
He said that seven member unions, in Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Honduras, Panama, Botswana and Egypt, were delivering food packages to players “because they cannot provide for their own basic needs and are stranded in terms of income.”
In countries where players had started training again ahead of a resumption of the league, Baer-Hoffmann added that conditions were often far from ideal.
“Some leagues are not providing testing material for the players which increases the risk of infection tremendously,” he said, adding that, in some cases, unions were stepping in to provide coronavirus tests.
There were also cases of players being threatened with disciplinary action for expressing concern about the health of their families, or being asked to sign a waiver regarding the consequences of a possible infection.
“This is unacceptable,” he said.
While players in countries such as England had spoken out, that was not possible for others.
“The vast majority of players are under the same economic pressure as most people in society and don’t have the luxury of insisting on risk mitigation,” he said.
“They need to put food on the table and many are returning to play with doubts and fears, because they have no other choice.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris