As the COVID-19 pandemic continues throughout the world, there have been plenty of questions in regard to the safety of players going on international duty. With the news breaking just two days ago that multiple players on Korea’s national team tested positive, forcing others into quarantine, the Irish FA has now announced that two players have tested positive from their squad. One of them is Tottenham Hotspur fullback Matt Doherty.
The Football Association of Ireland can confirm Matt Doherty and James McClean have tested positive for COVID-19— FAIreland ⚽️ (@FAIreland) November 16, 2020
The rest of the staff & squad tested negative ahead of the flight back to Dublin this morning before the match against Bulgaria on Wednesday#COYBIG pic.twitter.com/dyEMhuft8z
As mentioned in the tweet, this was a part of the regular testing that all international squads must go through. According to the Athletic, Doherty and McClean will have to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days, whether or not they display symptoms. That means Doherty will definitely miss Saturday’s home match against Manchester City, and possibly the Europa League match against Ludogorets.
Doherty has not spoken publicly regarding his positive test so we have no idea if he’s showing symptoms as of yet. It’s also worth noting that Tottenham hasn’t officially reported or tweeted anything about Doherty’s diagnosis, and hence it might be helpful to wait until we hear from the club before we jump to any conclusions.
It bears mentioning that Ireland just wrapped up a match with Wales and people have already pointed out on social media that Doherty was in close proximity to Gareth Bale, Ben Davies, and Joe Rodon. While we are still learning about this disease, the WHO and CDC have given us their best information regarding spread. The risk of contracting the virus is at its highest in an indoor environment with people. While the risk isn’t negated being outside and playing a sport, the risk is seems to be lower.
What that means is that based on what we think we know about this virus and how it spreads, the odds of transmission is higher for footballers when there’s extended contact between teammates indoors or on places like the team bus, and lower transmission during a football match played outdoors. Basically, if you’re going to freak about something, freak out about international teams coming together from all over the world for a short period of time and spending time in close proximity to each other, rather than playing a match against a team that might have someone who’s asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. It’s also extremely likely that any Spurs players that have come into any contact with Matt — such as Gareth, Joe, and Ben — will be tested nine ways to Sunday, and possibly isolated for a few days out of precaution.
It’s the first Tottenham first team player with a confirmed case of COVID-19 that we know about in a while. We know Tanguy Ndombele had it this summer, and there was a Guardian report a little earlier that suggested that someone else had it, but that they were “not a major first team player.” That’s a pretty good track record, all things considered. Obviously this is terrible for Doherty and scary for everyone else, but until we hear from the club that there are other players involved either with a positive test or contact tracing induced quarantine, it’s best to just take a deep breath and wait for more information.