Dubai: Gary Lineker, legendary former England striker and a much sought-after TV pundit, wants to keep his fingers crossed as the Premiership clubs voted in favour of starting their practice sessions and the most followed football league in the world looks set to resume in June.
“Safety is absolutely imperative. You can’t social distance playing soccer. You just can’t,” said the Golden Boot winner of 1986 World Cup. “I saw something the other day that there was a report that, well, what about, they could tackle, but when they tackle, they could look away to move them out of the way? Absurd suggestions like that. You cannot play football and social distance,” Lineker observed in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
The pressure on Premier League, as well as other major European leagues, is understandable as the Uefa has set them a deadline of May 25 vis-a-vis the status of the current season. Bundesliga showed the way by resuming action behind closed doors last weekend, but Lineker is apprehensive about the idea of ‘‘rushing’’ it.
“I think we’re all looking at the German league as - well, they’re setting the tone for everybody else because I think every league in Europe that wants to try and finish the season that was obviously interrupted is looking at Germany to see how it goes,” Lineker said. “So, yes, excited, but, at the same time, a little bit apprehensive.”
Making his point further, Lineker says: “I don’t see why there’s a rush. I understand why there’s a rush because they want to get it finished before next season starts, which is normally in August. So they want to start in June to get it finished and then have a little break, and then start the next season.
‘‘But realistically, is next season going to be interrupted? Probably yes. So, my suggestion is take your time with this one. Yes, finish it because I think that’s the fairest thing to do. And then let’s judge from there on. Obviously with the coronavirus, it’s very fluid. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone in four weeks’ time. So let’s be patient.”
A much decorated striker who has turned out for Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona, Lineker said in the interview that he had played without spectators only once in his career and didn’t like the idea.
“It’s not quite the same. I played in one game behind closed doors in my entire career because we had some fan problems in the crowd and it was a very strange experience. I imagine after a few games they’ll get used to it but even watching football on television is very much different if you’ve not got a crowd. The crowd adds to the atmosphere and it becomes more exciting to watch on the television.
‘‘It’ll be a little like training in many ways – but more important than training. I imagine they’ll get accustomed to it, but it’s whether television audiences get accustomed to it because it’s very different. I think Europe is watching very closely to see how it pans out. Fingers crossed, it’s acceptable,” he added.