PFL clubs give take on COVID-19 vaccine use in pro leagues

Originally published by TieBreaker Times

With the breakthrough and distribution of various vaccines around the world to curb the dangers of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, there remain question marks about the vaccines’ efficiency, and people’s willingness to get inoculated in the first place.

During the #WeArePFL2021 Virtual Season Kick-off, Saturday afternoon, officials representing United City, Kaya-Iloilo, Mendiola 1991, Stallion Laguna, and Maharlika Manila discussed their views on the hypothetical utilization of these shots.

“With the vaccine, we’re still not sure how this is going to work out,” said Stallions coach Ernie Nierras. “It really depends, [but] at the end of the day, a lot of people are looking at the PFF to make that decision. It won’t be their decision. It’s gonna be the decision of the IATF. All of us follow the IATF and DOH protocols.

“Based on that, if they allow teams to play, even with the vaccine they might still require that the competition being in a bubble, they might still require all the safety protocols because you don’t know. We don’t have enough data for the vaccine. Now is it going to be mandatory? We don’t know because what if some of the players do not want to take the vaccine?”

Nierras opined that the PFL, as a professional competition, will strictly follow the health protocols set by the Games and Amusement Board. “The PFF is ready to pay for the vaccines for the players and the staff. They would actually rather provide the vaccines for everybody as well as financial assistance for the team rather than have the mandatory bubble for the competitions,” he added.

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As for United City owner Eric Gottschalk, while getting vaccinated is a “personal decision”, it may be imperative to do so for the sake of competing. “But if we’re looking at it in a footballing point of view and if we’re looking at where this all goes with like a health passport for travel, what we will most likely do in our club before we sign players, we would require them their permission or their acceptance to get vaccinated.

“What I don’t want to do is that we’re having away matches where we are playing in AFC competitions, and the AFC sets these matches up, and then the airlines and other government entities are saying that you can only travel when you have the vaccine. And suddenly you’re gonna lose a lot of the players.

“I think we’re going to be very upfront with what needs to happen. But in order to be proactive, we will recommend the players to be vaccinated and give the permission. If it’s required for participating, it will be one of our requirements on our side to sign for us,” said the MMC Sportz Asia CEO.

While local and international health experts and government officials have advocated the use of these vaccines, there is still some skepticism amidst reports from various sources about their alleged side-effects. This issue is one thing that various stakeholders of the sport must decide upon in the future.

“I don’t think we can force anyone (to take the vaccine),” said Kaya team manager Paul Tolentino. “But like what Eric said, and like Ernie said, if it’s a requirement to compete, then these players need to make their decision. Whether they’re comfortable enough to take it and want to take it in order to compete.

Secondly, if it’s a requirement, not just internationally to play in AFC but also locally. If the player chooses not to, then you gotta have to find players who are willing to take the vaccine and play [after being inoculated] with the vaccine. I’m hoping it doesn’t get too complicated with the protocols of the government to compete if players are already vaccinated, but we really don’t know. We’ll try to be as compliant and also an understanding of the situation as possible.”

When it comes to Mendiola representative Karl Tan, he opined that no resolution should be made immediately with so many unanswered queries. “I think this has to be discussed thoroughly among all of us and the PFF. Rushing into a decision right now is medyo iffy right?

“Maybe (we’ll) see how it goes first and getting… Not really forcing the players to have this. We’re not too sure about it and in the end, we don’t want to be liable and we don’t want our players to get the negative effects of these vaccines if there are. So it has to be thoroughly discussed and that day will come.”

Similarly, Maharlika’s Anton del Rosario reiterated the other speakers’ messages by saying that receiving the vaccine is a matter of personal decision, one that should be weighed the more that data is being released to the public about it “Whatever rules are implemented, as Eric said and those rules will be implemented and that’s when it comes to the player’s choice, right?

“Whether the vaccine is forced upon them in some way, they have the choice to say no. Or whether it’s a rule made by the club or by FIFA, they’re always gonna have a choice. Whether it’s gonna be to hang up their boots or take the vaccine, that’s gonna be their choice in the end. But in the end, hopefully, it doesn’t come down to that. I know myself, I wouldn’t take the vaccine.

“I sat there with (Stephan Schrock) Schrocky also. Schrocky is saying he wouldn’t take the vaccine. It’s scary. The vaccine, not too many people know much about it. It’s risky but as we said, if it’s something implemented by the teams or the organizations itself, in the end, it’s gonna be up to the players whether they step up to the plate to do it or not,” said the former Azkals player.

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While there is still no final decision about the intake of the vaccine against COVID-19, the PFL is set to conduct its 2021 season in a bubble just like the league did last year.

Amidst all the uncertainty surrounding these immunization efforts, it is reassuring that Philippine football will still exist while everyone is living in uncertain times.

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