The Spanish team in its golden cage

Modern football is like that fungus that spoils a fruit: you see it coming, you try to clean it, it seems that it is not so bad, but one day you find that the fruit is to be thrown away. Economic interests forced leagues and championships to be played in the middle of a pandemic that had half the world blocked. The footballer, being considered a millionaire (not all are), is dehumanized. They forget that they have a life of their own, feelings and opinions. I imagine the soccer players of the Spanish National Team isolated in their rooms for days, receiving the daily visit of an elongated stick picking at their noses, and watching in astonishment at debates about which vaccine to get and when. Mágico González, who said that he preferred to take football as a diversion and not as a job, must be regarded as someone looking at an old Che screenprint. Something very far away.

The positive of Busquets last Sunday, eight days before the start of the competition, he fell like a bomb in the National Team. After more than a year of a pandemic, we know that the covid-19 virus spreads very easily and that a little mistake can make you catch it. A study carried out by the United States Football League (NFL) determined that 15 minutes in close contact with an infected person was enough to become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Furthermore, PCR is very sensitive in detecting virus RNA, just as PCR is very sensitive in detecting DNA in undetectable traces of a killer. Knowing that the risk of having a positive in the team was high, Why was it not discussed before about the possibility of vaccinating the Spanish National Team?

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Following a strict vaccination order made perfect sense until the highest-risk population was vaccinated. However, once those over 60 years of age were vaccinated, society could have understood the debate about the National Team’s vaccination. For example, the vaccination of Olympic athletes has been socially accepted because it is something imposed by the Olympic Committee. And here UEFA may have failed by not requiring vaccination of the players participating in the Eurocup when European countries are well stocked with vaccines. In other parts of the world, such as South America, they don’t have as many vaccines. However, CONMEBOL (equivalent to UEFA in South America), received a ‘gift’ from China and vaccinated the participants in the America’s Cup when tens of thousands of South Americans over 60 had not yet been vaccinated. That in Spain would not have been tolerated.

Busquets (d). (EFE)

The fact is that it was not debated before and the National Team player, lying in the solitude of his room, reads on his mobile to those who think whether he should get one or another vaccine, and about what will be better for his health and his worries. Yesterday, the Interterritorial Council approved that the Selection be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses. But now, Selection doctors say they are vaccinated with Janssen or not vaccinated. This, at first, seems to me an act of arrogance because nobody has been allowed to choose a vaccine. You can get vaccinated or not, but not choose the vaccine. It occurs to me that one of the concerns of these doctors is the possible side effects of vaccines. In summary, clinical studies indicate that between 20% and 50% of those vaccinated with either vaccine have side effects such as fatigue or muscle pain. Not much, unless two days later you have to chase a Swede for 90 minutes.

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If the Selection gets vaccinated with Janssen, which requires a single dose, they would have that possible one-time fatigue

If the Selection is vaccinated with Janssen, which requires only one dose, they would have that possible fatigue only once. But there are reports that suggest that the Janssen vaccine can give strange blood clots, albeit at a very low frequency (approximately one per million). Reports from the United States indicate that these rare thrombi occur preferentially in those under the age of 60 and in women. They only registered one death in seven million. Another study indicates that these thrombi occur in people who already have a history prone to thrombi. But even so, has anyone asked footballers if they are afraid of that one per million probability? It is possible that a player has fear or concern. Fear is very human and must be respected, as Dennis Bergkamp, ​​the former Arsenal player who was afraid of flying, was respected.

If the reason for choosing Janssen is to experience fatigue or muscle pain on one occasion, perhaps those who advise the Selection have not taken into account the CDC (United States Center for Disease Control) report that states that there is data to support that the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna can be given up to 42 days later. This would make it possible to hold the parade with the European Champions Cup and close all the bars that Mágico González closed before getting vaccinated. Canada has gone further and has preferred to vaccinate more population with a first dose, lengthening the period to receive the second up to four months. Therefore, national team footballers could be vaccinated with a dose of Pfizer, which according to studies carried out in the United Kingdom already confers some protection, and wait until the end of the championship to receive the second dose.

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Photo: Luis Enrique during a training session with the Spanish National Team.  (EFE)

Finally, there is an even more conservative alternative. When we talk about the National Team, we talk about about 50 people, of which only 24 are footballers. Of the 24 footballers, I have read that nine have already passed the covid, and it is assumed that they already have antibodies and specific T lymphocytes that protect them. If you vaccinate the 26 non-footballers and the two goalkeepers who are not going to play, you would have a total of 37 people with protection acting as a firewall for covid-19 within a group of 50. The remaining 13 players could be vaccinated in stages in case they are it is unfortunate that everyone gets fatigue after the vaccine at the same time.

While modern football continues to rot fruit, a Super League there or a game on Monday night there, the fans continue to observe most of the footballers with esteem and respect. We gulp when they do. We hug when they hug. We empathize with some kids who might want to live outside their golden cages, but they remain locked up to, at times, make us fly.

* Article written by Julián Cerón Madrigal. Scientist at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), and author of the book ‘Raticos de Coronavirus’.

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