COVID19: A third of Cyprus footballers yet to be tested

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A third of Cyprus topflight clubs have yet to test their players some 48 hours before the new season’s championship title race kicks-off.

Players’ union PASP has criticised the country’s health authorities for allowing teams to wait until the last minute to test their players.

In comments to Super Sport FM, chairman of PASP, Spyros Neofytides, said that authorities were “reckless” as they did not oblige teams to test their players when they started training in July while allowing them to play friendlies.

“It is unacceptable. With the exception of teams playing in European tournaments and a few others, the rest have not tested their players.

This is disrespectful towards their players and the rest of the teams as they could endanger teams who are playing in Europe,” Neofytides said.

He said that according to his intel, five out of the 14 topflight teams have yet to test their players, waiting until the last minute due to costs.

PASP’s intervention came after topflight Ethnikos Achnas reported that one of its squad members was found positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The unnamed player is a member of the club’s first team and has participated in friendly games, most recently against Olympiakos Nicosia on Sunday.

PASP claims the Cyprus Football Association, the Health Ministry and the epidemiological team advising the government have approved a protocol which endangers the health of players and club sustainability.

“Testing was not obligatory, and this is where the responsibility of the ministry and the CFA lay. Clubs have been allowed to play friendlies.

Our pleas have been completely ignored while promises made by the Minister and the CFA have been broken,” said Neofytides.

He said the success of Cyprus teams in European competition, on which the bigger clubs rely on to cover their budgets, has been put at risk.

Asked about the cost of tests, which are borne by the clubs, Neofytides said the union understands that it is a real obstacle as smaller teams cannot afford to test their squads frequently, which is why teams left it to the last minute.

Childish mistakes

“These are childish mistakes. The responsibilities of the epidemiological team and the CFA are enormous”.

Testing a team’s players and staff would cost around €2,000.

Neofytides said the CFA received €4 mln emergency funds from UEFA to support the country’s coronavirus-stricken clubs.

“Some of the money given to the CFA is to go to infrastructure projects, but a significant part of it is to help out clubs who found themselves in dire straits following the coronavirus outbreak.

The money has already been received and the CFA should have handed out money for testing”.

The top-flight football season abruptly ended on 15 March with 45 fixtures to be played for the championship and five for the cup.

Omonia Nicosia topped the table at the time but was not declared champions after a truncated season. They were awarded the Champions League spot instead.

The health crisis saw clubs lose out on proceeds from these games, with each match expected to see between 5-12,000 fans while payments for TV rights have been put on hold.

Tickets for Cyprus games range from €10 to €20.

According to CFA estimations, football clubs in Cyprus will start the new season with losses of a minimum €5 mln as they will not be able to sell any season tickets for games to be played in the 2020-21 season.

Cyprus’ football season kicks-off on Friday when Ethnikos Achnas host Paralimni at 6 pm followed by APOEL Nicosia’s against Karmiotissa at 7.30 pm.

Games can be played before a limited number of fans as the government protocol foresees a maximum capacity of 30% with no chanting allowed.