FIFA medical chief Michel D’Hooghe says he'd prefer soccer wait until late August to return

The medical chief for FIFA voiced concern about rushing soccer back and told the Telegraph on Tuesday he would be happy if play wasn’t resumed until August with a new season.

Soccer clubs around the world are beginning to set return dates for their players with hopes to play matches in June.

FIFA medical chief wants to start in August

Michel D’Hooghe, medical committee chairman of FIFA, said skipping the rest of the current season and starting up again on time would avoid another COVID-19 outbreak. Leagues are currently trying to fit in some semblance of a continued 2019-20 season and potentially push back the next one.

D’Hooghe told the Telegraph:

“Football suddenly becomes not the most important thing in life. I will be very happy if we can start, in a convenient way, the next championship and have nothing before the start of next season. 

“If they could start the season 2020/21 end of August or beginning of September I would be happy. Then they could eventually avoid a second attack from the virus, which is not impossible.”  

FIFA medical chief Michel D'Hooghe said he'd be happy to see soccer wait to return until August with a new season. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Medical arguments should win over economics

D’Hooghe stressed that while he’s commonly seen economic arguments win out over public health, that shouldn’t be the case here.

“If there is one circumstance where medical arguments should win against economical arguments, it is now. It is not a matter of money, it is a matter of life and death. It is very simple.”

He urged against allowing the public to watch matches and noted that soccer players cannot play while maintaining social distancing. In Belgium, where D’Hooghe spoke to the Telegraph, that is 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). Meanwhile in the United States, six feet of separation are recommended.

Players are also in the same locker rooms, and even if fans aren’t allowed into stadiums, he said, they will find a way to come together to support their club.

Soccer leagues set return dates

Teams resumed practices in April in the German Bundesliga while social distancing, and stand ready to resume whenever the government lifts its restrictions.

Serie A in Italy will start allowing players to practice individually in early May with games expected to resume in June. Premier League clubs have indicated a return around the same time.

On the other hand, the Dutch government announced it would not allow professional soccer until Sept. 1 at the earliest, and the Eredivisie decided to cancel its season without a champion or promotion/relegation.

As of Tuesday there are more than 3 million total confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide and more than 212,300 deaths attributed to the disease.

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