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Men's football It’s ‘crazy’ that black players are returning to football, says Nathan Blake

EX-WALES striker Nathan Blake said that unless the coronavirus is eliminated, it would be “crazy” for black players to return to the field, be it for training or games.

With the Bundesliga returning last weekend and Premier League clubs welcoming back players to training over the past 48 hours, a sense of normality for football is well underway.

However, Watford’s Adrian Mariappa has tested positive for Covid-19 and teammate Troy Deeney is refusing to go back to work.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Breakfast yesterday, Blake responded defiantly when asked if he would train under these circumstances.

“Hell no, no way, no chance.

“I wouldn’t be putting myself at risk.

“And I wouldn’t expect any fans to put themselves at risk and come and watch a game.”

This week saw players from ethnic-minority backgrounds express concern to their union the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) about the resumption of training.

Data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that black men and women are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared with white people, even when factors such as health, disability, household composition and area deprivation are taken into account.

Blake said: “This is entertainment at the end of the day and all this “the show must go on” and all that nonsense — it’s easy to say, it’s a little different in reality though.

“So for me, black people are clearly affected in a different way to white people or our white counterparts.

“I wouldn’t be thinking about it [returning] at all.

“I would be expecting someone to come to me and guarantee my safety and we’re not there yet.”

Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante is among those to have missed training over coronavirus fears, with the backing of his manager Frank Lampard, while Deeney said that it made no sense for him to be kicking a football when he has a five-month-old son with breathing difficulties at home.

“You’ve got a situation where it is literally life or death for a lot of people; a lot of people have been touched by what’s gone on,” Blake added. “I think it’s crazy, really (to consider returning to football).”

With England’s Conservative government’s blase attitude towards social distancing and the easing of lockdown, compared with the governments in Scotland and Wales, Blake added that until Britain was in unison about what happens in going forward, he was unconvinced football should take the next step and reintroduce contact training.

The Welsh government has yet to confirm whether or not it will give official backing to Swansea City and Cardiff City’s return to training as plans are forged for the Championship to return, causing further confusion.

“People are scared out of their wits. I heard about people being dished out fines and what have you for being out and about [in Wales] and at the same time you’re asking professional footballers just to return to action as if everything’s A-okay.

“So for me, personally, I totally understand why people have their reservations about going back.

“I just think you’re asking too much. I think you have to get to a position where you’ve got the whole situation in every country in the United Kingdom under control and then you can start to move forward when people’s stresses are eased a bit.

“This isn’t about whether you’ve got money or not or whether you’re a football fan or sports fan or not; like I said, it’s a case of life and death first and foremost and I don’t see why anyone should be asked to play and go back to training until you know for sure that this virus isn’t being contracted by people and being passed on to other people.”

Mariappa’s positive test wasn’t the only one in the league, let alone the club. Two further non-playing staff members at Watford and Burnley’s assistant manager Ian Woan also tested positive for coronavirus.

There were 748 Covid-19 tests conducted in professional football last weekend. 

While the low positive cases were seen by some fans and those working in the game as a sign the game should resume, Blake believes it still isn’t good enough.

“That’s fine, but this is a virus, right, not something you can see. Everyone’s an expert but no-one really knows exactly what to say, what to do.” he said.

“So from a player’s perspective are you going out there fully aware that every single player and every single member of staff is being tested or in and around you is going through the right procedures?

“It’s almost impossible to manage.

“I think you just have to get to the position, like I said, where the [UK] countries are getting zero cases and people are allowed to move on and move forward with their lives.”

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