While the coronavirus pandemic has brought most football leagues and tournaments across the globe to a screeching halt, bar several notable outliers such as Belarus, a Danish study gives new hope for thirsty fans.
New research from Denmark's Aarhus University has revealed that the risk of contracting the coronavirus when playing football is “minimal”, the scientific magazine Videnskab reported.
On average, a footballer spends only about 1.5 minutes out of 90 in close proximity to another player during a game, the researchers have found, based on the movements of professional footballers in 14 Superliga games.
Magni Mohr, football researcher and associate professor at the Institute of Sport and Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark, says the study was “super exciting and creatively done”.
“Obviously, it opens up a lot of other studies on possible pathways of infection. For example, it might be interesting to see if the same calculation is valid for training exercises and professional coaches, who often work in small areas where you are very close to each other”, he mused. “This is perhaps the start of evidence-based recommendations and finding out how to train in the safest way”, Mohr said.
The findings were also supported by researcher Allan Randrup Thomsen of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen
“The Public Health Authority estimates that you have to be within two metres of a contagious person for over 15 minutes before contact is relevant”, Thomsen said. “So there is no doubt that the 1.5 minutes noted in the research is not critical, particularly given that football is played outside”.
Thomsen said that as long as players refrain from physical contact during celebrations, change and shower at home to steer clear of locker rooms, and follow the general guidelines in terms of coughing and washing hands, there are few health-related reasons to ban football.
The reports were warmly welcomed by the Danish Divisional Association, which takes care of top-tier football in Denmark, who is currently pondering opportunities to relaunch the Super League.
“This looks very interesting, and we include it in our assessment”, Director General Claus Thomsen said.
The study may have far-reaching repercussions. Denmark, the designated host of Euro 2020, was recently given two extra weeks to work out a solution for the cup that was earlier postponed to next summer.
Since Copenhagen will also host a stage of the Tour de France bicycle race, the organisers said they will struggle to accommodate both big events at the same time. According to Jesper Møller, the head of the Danish Football Association (DBU), there was a 50/50 chance of Copenhagen hosting as planned.