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FOOTBALL

Discussion over Ballack’s place in national team intensifies

Speculation over the future of injured national football team captain Michael Ballack intensified over the weekend after the side managed to win its first match in the Euro 2012 qualification campaign without him.

Discussion over Ballack's place in national team intensifies
Ballack and Löw. Photo: DPA

Coach Joachim Löw said on Sunday Ballack remained in his plans for the team despite his continued absence – which is expected to last past Tuesday’s second qualifying match against Azerbaijan in Cologne.

Ballack is still trying to regain fitness after a long period off the pitch following an ankle injury which put him out of this summer’s World Cup in South Africa. He has also transferred from Chelsea to Bayer Leverkusen, for whom he has played once during this new Bundesliga season.

The 33-year-old has been replaced by Sami Khedira in midfield for the national side, but Löw said there was still a place for Ballack.

“I hope the team continues to grow, and that certainly includes Michael,” Löw told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

He has already confirmed that Ballack would regain the captaincy from Philipp Lahm when he returns to the national side, despite the fact that he is not yet fit enough to play for his country.

“We must acknowledge that Michael is not yet able to help us, that was clear in his first match (for Bayer Leverkusen) since his ankle injury. Our team progressed enormously during the World Cup, some players like Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger raised their game. But I thought about it calmly and it was clear that Michael should remain captain.”

He would not comment on whether Ballack would return to the national team for next month’s matches against Turkey and Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile former national goalkeeper Oliver Kahn criticised Löw’s management of the Ballack question.

He favoured the idea of, “a 100 percent strong captain, which has the acceptance of the team, is a regular player and is the spokesman of the trainer,” Kahn told Der Spiegel magazine on Saturday.

The tactic of confirming Ballack as captain, but his degradation to a player without a firm place in the team, was not systematic enough, said Kahn.

A number of observers saw Löw’s lengthy hesitation in making a firm statement on Ballack as an attempt to force him to resign from the national team.

With Ballack’s position in the team no longer a given even when he is again fully fit, Khedira said he would challenge Ballack for the place in midfield, he said.

“Michael Ballack had the same rights to it as I do, to be there and to place. It is a purely sporting competition,” he said.

Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Federation, DFB, said he welcomed the rise of younger players.

“That is a healthy competitive situation, which every performance athlete must accept,” he said, adding it was completely normal that the situation with Ballack be carefully examined.

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FOOTBALL

British football teams allowed to skip Germany’s quarantine for Euro 2020

Germany's government announced on Tuesday it will allow England, Scotland and Wales to enter the country without quarantine to play at Euro 2020 despite a recent rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

British football teams allowed to skip Germany's quarantine for Euro 2020
One of the venues for Euro 2020 is in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The three teams could potentially reach the quarter-final held in Munich on July 2nd.

If that were the case, they would be exempt from the rule that travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must currently observe a 14-day isolation period due to the virus strain of concern – Delta – first identified in India.

“The people accredited for the European football Championship are exempt from the quarantine obligation, even after arriving from an area impacted by a variant” Berlin said in a statement.

“This exemption concerns all the people who have been accredited by the organising committee for the preparation, participation, the holding and the follow-up of international sporting events,” it added.

The exemption does not include fans, who will be obliged to follow German government self-isolation rules.

Germany declared the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ on May 23rd due to rising cases linked to the Delta variant in parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany makes UK ‘virus variant area of concern’: How does it affect you?

This reclassification came just seven days after the UK was put back on Germany’s list at the lowest risk level, and barely a month after it was taken off all risk lists completely.

The ban was put in place despite the UK’s relatively low Covid rates as a precautionary measure.

A general ban on entry is in place for people coming from countries on the ‘virus variant’ list – such as India and Brazil – the highest of Germany’s risk categories. 

There are some exceptions for entering from these countries – for example German residents and citizens. However, anyone who does enter from Germany is required to submit a Covid-19 test before boarding the flight and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

Euro 2020 starts on Friday as Italy host Turkey in Rome with the Bavarian city hosting three group games as well as the last-eight match.

Around 14,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz Arena for the fixtures.

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