Spanish player back to training after threatening to quit

National Sports

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish soccer player who threatened to quit his team rather than risk being infected by the coronavirus returned to training on Monday.

Cádiz defender Fali Giménez rejoined his teammates at the second-division club a month after saying he wouldn’t play again unless there was a vaccine for COVID-19 or if he was assured 100% that he wouldn’t get infected after being back on the field.

Giménez did not practice last week when the rest of the squad returned to training nearly two months after soccer was halted in the country.

The 26-year-old Spaniard had said it didn’t make sense to play soccer while people were dying around the country because of the virus.

“There are a lot of people dying and we are talking about playing soccer? Giménez told radio network COPE last month. “Soccer is not something essential, it’s something that is supposed to be fun, and we are not in the mood for having fun right now. You can’t play with people’s health.”

He said he would not forgive himself if he got infected and passed the virus to one of his family members.

“The lives of our relatives wouldn’t be back, but soccer would,” he said. “I don’t think it makes sense for 22 guys to be out there playing with their own lives. If there’s a 1% chance of me getting infected, I’m not going to play. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I won’t be exposing my family to this. I’ll leave soccer if there is no vaccine or guarantee that I won’t get infected. Health is more important.”

Cádiz, which led the second division when it was suspended, said it understood the player’s decision not to train but had been trying to convince him to change his mind. It lauded Giménez’s return on Monday, publishing photos and videos of him training with his teammates.

Spanish league president Javier Tebas said it was “good for everyone” that Giménez decided to return to practice. Tebas has been saying that it’s nearly impossible for players to get infected in training because they are being tested daily for COVID-19 and several strict health guidelines have been adopted by the league to protect everyone involved.

“Of course we understand that people have various emotions, including fear. This is an unprecedented time,” Tebas said. “However, we are taking many precautions for a safe and controlled return of football. Playing football will be safer than, for example, going to the super market or pharmacy.”

The comments by Tebas came after players and coaches from first-division club Eibar said they were “afraid” of practicing and playing during the pandemic. They released a statement expressing concern that “by doing what we love the most we could get infected and infect our family members and friends.”

The Eibar players practiced normally when individual training sessions resumed last week.

Giménez, who says he doesn’t have a cell phone or any social media accounts, underwent alternative drills because he missed last week’s sessions.

The Spanish league hopes the first and second divisions will resume on the second weekend of June.

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