Liverpool have refused to allow Mohamed Salah to travel to Africa for World Cup qualifiers with Egypt next month because he would be forced to quarantine on his return to England, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) said on Monday.
It opens up the possibility of similar refusals from other European clubs ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers in Africa, Asia, the CONCACAF region, Europe and South America, and puts them on a potential collision course with FIFA.
A statement from the EFA said Liverpool had apologised for not allowing the Egypt captain to travel home for their Group F qualifier against Angola in Cairo on Sept. 2 and the trip to Gabon three days later.
“The Egyptian Football Association had received a letter from Liverpool apologising for the inability of its player, Mohamed Salah, to join the national team for next month’s African qualifiers for the World Cup.
“The letter referred to the precautionary measures applied in England to confront the outbreak of the coronavirus, which forces returnees from some countries to compulsory health isolation for a period of 10 days upon their return to England.
“In its letter, the English club also expressed its hope that the Egyptian association would understand that it was forced to do so, in the face of the player being subjected to a quarantine,” the EFA statement added.
The club have made no comment but the Liverpool Echo newspaper on Monday said the European Club Association, of which Liverpool are members, have agreed a collective position in refusing to release players for international duty next week should they have to quarantine on their return.
It could also affect Liverpool’s Brazilian trio of Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker and Fabinho, who have been called up for next month’s qualifiers against Chile, Argentina and Peru.
FIFA has scrapped the exemption introduced last year, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed clubs to refuse to release players for international duty should travel restrictions be imposed or there be a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days on their return.
“The temporary amendment was in place until April 2021 and is no longer currently in effect nor is it intended to be applied for September,” a spokesman for FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, told Reuters.
“Since the outset of the pandemic, FIFA has continued to work in close cooperation with the confederations, member associations and respective authorities, monitoring the different restrictions and exemptions around the world.
“The regulations have reflected this process, as best as is possible at the global level. FIFA is confident that the situation will continue as it was the case in June for qualifiers and final continental tournaments and that players will be able to travel to play with their national teams and return to play with their clubs,” it added.