Should Atleti give up the Champions League?

On Saturday July 19, the Fuenlabrada players underwent the corresponding PCR test before training prior to the trip to play with Deportivo in A Coruña. A routine procedure in the middle of the euphoria of a team that somehow became known in the play-offs for promotion to first place: only one point would be enough against a team with few options to maintain the category. All the players, technicians and components of the Fuenlabran delegation were well: healthy, without symptoms, no fever or any discomfort. However, against all odds, a player tested positive that same night.

Much of the problem that arose from that moment on was thinking that it was enough to move the ripe apples aside. A virus doesn’t work like that. Not this one, at least. It can spend several days in your body, days during which you can still infect others, without having enough charge to be detected in a molecular analysis, the most accurate we know. Thus, on Saturday we had only one positive, that on Sunday there were two, that on Monday morning they went to four, it was eight in the afternoon, and the following Friday, that is, almost a week later, there were already 28 positives despite having followed the quarantine protocol during all those days in Galicia.

This process is common in an outbreak. It does not have to be followed in one hundred percent of the cases, but let’s say that it is quite common: we have a positive, we are making contacts, some are positive from the beginning but others are accumulating negative until suddenly the virus faces the third or fourth test. That is why the protocol of the Ministry of Health makes it clear that the contacts of a positive, no matter how healthy they are, must keep a quarantine for around ten days After which the ideal would be to do another PCR test to confirm the negative.

Soccer wanted to go fast and what happened happened. Apart from the number of infected and their possible consequences -which is always the first thing to consider- Deportivo ended up outraged and in Second B … and Fuenlabrada failed and without a play-off. It is a mistake that cannot be repeated and that nevertheless looks like it will do so in a very short time with Atlético de Madrid in the Champions League. Yesterday Sunday, we learned of the existence of two positives Among the entourage that was preparing to travel to Lisbon to play this kind of “Final to eight” that UEFA has mounted. Just look at the success (momentary, eye) of the NBA to infer that maybe the teams should have been there longer in a kind of “bubble”. Obviously, I am talking about teams like Atlético de Madrid whose presence was guaranteed since March.

The idea, according to the UEFA protocol, which, I insist, once again, goes against the guidelines of the Ministry of Health without the Ministry of Health having come out to say at the moment “this mouth is mine”, is that players move away as they test positive and that the rest can continue training and playing. From an economic and sporting point of view, it can be a respectable exit to finish the competition, satisfy sponsors and calm the spirits of hundreds of thousands of fans. From a health point of view, the decision is a disaster.

It is still too early – this article is written on Monday the 10th in the morning – to know the evolution of the rest of the companions of the two positives already detected. It may all turn out well and there will not be a single contagion more and Atlético can play against Leipzig on Thursday with their gala team. It may also not. Security protocols are made to take account of these eventualities. We all know normality. The point is that you have to see if these two positives have had contact with the rest of the expedition, for how long, under what circumstances, and start the daily tests. It seems that UEFA prefers a method that is not exactly PCR but is also based on molecular detection. Well, as long as you have guarantees, it doesn’t matter.

It is not ruled out, due to the behavior of the virus in the world population, that these two positives are three today, five tomorrow and so on. In that case, thinking that the match dispute is safe is absurd. There are players who could test positive on the same day of the game … or even the day after, which would put Leipzig in a very dangerous situation, having competed with a team in an anomalous epidemic condition. A possible solution would be to postpone the match, but UEFA already made it clear at the time that it was not going to do any of that, that each team would manage without their positives and that everything was going to end on schedule. Besides, the postponements can lead to somewhat grotesque situations like Fuenlabrada himself, who ended up playing his game two weeks later … and even so with only seven professional players available.

What remains for Atleti, then, is to cross his fingers. So much science for this. Cross your fingers, close your eyes and trust that they are two isolated cases. It’s weird but, I insist, it could be. Another option would be to play the game with the second squad or with players who, most certainly, have not been in contact with either of the two positives, which, of course, is not going to happen because nobody here is thinking about health, he is thinking of winning. You don’t eliminate Liverpool at Anfield to surrender to a virus, do you?

And yet giving up would be the right thing to do. Give up participating and think about another year. Don’t even wait for UEFA to say so. As soon as there is a third positive, abandon the dream and resign yourself again. I know it’s not fair for the Atlético de Madrid fans but we are talking about a pandemic that has killed more than 730,000 people worldwide and between 25,000 and 50,000 in Spain alone. It’s not a game. What would not make sense is to stretch the rope until everyone ends up locked in a hotel in the Bairro Alto, waiting for Thebes or whoever to come to rescue them. The margin is what it is: one more positive. Everything that is done from that third positive with the intention of playing the game as it is would be an absurd endeavor.

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