As things stand, Jurgen Klopp is set to be without key starters in Fabinho, Bobby Firmino and shotstopper Alisson Becker for Liverpool’s visit to West Yorkshire.
The Reds aren’t the only side to have been penalised by FIFA’s latest ruling – after the governing body caved to the Brazilian Football Confederation’s demands – with the club’s upcoming opponents, Leeds United, amongst the handful of English top-flight outfits to have likewise suffered.
In line with its habitually poor decision-making, the organisation decided to punish several Premier League clubs for refusing to sanction the release of their Brazilian contingent for the ongoing World Cup qualifiers.
If the ever-looming threat of COVID-19 wasn’t continuing to cast a shadow across the globe, this may have come across as a typical case of club-nation tension.
However, as is abundantly clear to all by now, the pandemic remains a serious, if not quite a globally panic-inducing, concern, with various national governments having taken appropriate steps to protect their borders.
Given that the likes of Liverpool and their fellow Premier League outfits are merely responding to the restrictions set by the UK government with regard to travel to red-list countries, it does beg the question as to why FIFA have chosen to side with one such flagged nation.
FIFA’s thought process is even more baffling when one considers how Brazil’s clash with Argentina was called off within the opening 10 minutes of the first-half after four Argentinian, Premier League-based stars were apprehended by Brazilian health authorities for breaking COVID-19 quarantine rules.
Surreal: Brazil v Argentina stopped inside 7 mins by Brazilian Federal Police walking on field to detain 4 Argentinian Premier League players who failed to disclose they are based in Britain, breaking COVID protocols upon entering Brazil. Chaos ensued 🇧🇷🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/ANG5L61SaK
— roger bennett (@rogbennett) September 5, 2021
We realise that, on the face of things and in the context of World Cup qualifiers, this is a sporting matter – hence the supposed rationale behind FIFA’s decision.
However, this is an issue that has been long-since infiltrated by a global health concern, which has rightly invited political intervention.
Regardless of the Brazilian FA’s opinions on the matter, the medical advice of experts should absolutely trump purely footballing concerns – that should have been FIFA’s reaction if they had considered the matter from every angle.
Given that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are being penalised for literally following the rules, it raises an interesting quandary as to how the club, its upcoming league opponents and fellow English top-flight residents, should handle the ruling.
Understandably, the response from fans on social media has been to urge the German and Marcelo Bielsa to utterly disregard the decision in question.
Considering that sanctions for defying FIFA’s orders are only ‘possible’, as clarified by Melissa Reddy in the Independent, it’s a move that would have its appeal were Premier League clubs inclined to adopt the international governing body’s self-destructive stance.
Doing so would be to wade into somewhat uncharted waters as far as the club-FIFA relationship is concerned in the pandemic era.
A perhaps less obvious route English clubs could opt for is to take a leaf out of the Brazilian FA’s book and complain en masse to the English FA, forcing the governing body to list its own opposing demands.
It would be the more diplomatic option of the two, though, with Liverpool’s clash with Leeds only just around the corner (and even closer for others), it’s not clear whether such an approach would yield any backtracking from FIFA in time for the Premier League to be given the all-clear.
Whatever decision Liverpool and their fellow Premier League outfits choose to take, they should remember that, ultimately, they are in the right, in light of the health guidance issued by the UK government.