Liverpool FC clash against Atletico Madrid ‘directly contributed to coronavirus deaths’

Liverpool’s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid and Cheltenham Festival ’caused increased suffering and death’, the scientist leading the UK’s largest Covid-19 tracking project has said. Data gathered from millions of volunteers found coronavirus ‘hotspots’ shortly after both sporting events held in March where thousands of spectators packed together despite the threat posed by coronavirus already evident across the world. While the government has said many factors could influence cases in a particular area, professor Tim Spector – who runs the Covid-19 Symptom Study at King’s College London – said rates of cases locally ‘increased several-fold’ following those two major events. Less than three months ago sport across the UK was continuing as normal, despite the impending threat. Spain had already introduced lockdown measures – closing schools and banning mass gatherings – when 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans flew into Liverpool, joining the 52,000-strong crowd at Anfield. Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live On the day of the match – March 11 – the World Health Organisation officially declared coronavirus a pandemic. Despite this, Boris Johnson was still telling the public in early March that people should ‘as far as possible, go about business as usual’. Sports governing bodies in the UK were taking their cue from the Prime Minister, who himself watched the Six Nations rugby match between England and Wales at Twickenham on March 7.

In Ireland, where St Patrick’s Day events had already been cancelled, they took a different approach. A forthcoming Six Nations match in Dublin had already been postponed, as had the Chinese Grand Prix and football matches in then-epicentre northern Italy. Just 24 hours before Cheltenham Festival opened its gates in Gloucestershire on March 10 to 250,000 spectators, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC: ‘There’s no reason for people not to attend such events or to cancel them at this stage.’ Prof Spector has now told the broadcaster, ‘people will have probably died prematurely’ because of the decision. BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme has seen data from the last week of March that shows Liverpool and Cheltenham were among the areas with the highest number of suspected cases. The figures, from the Covid-19 Symptom Study, show an estimated 5-6% of the population, aged 20 to 69, had symptoms in those two regions. The King’s College research draws on information uploaded by more than three million volunteers around the UK, who use a phone app to submit daily reports identifying whether they have any of the 15 symptoms associated with Covid-19.

It is not in any way connected to the government’s contact-tracing app, which is being trialled in the Isle of Wight. The Jockey Club has previously defended the decision to go ahead with Cheltenham, telling the Guardian on 2 April that it had followed ‘clear and ongoing guidance’ from the government and science experts. It added: ‘We promoted the latest public health advice and introduced a range of additional hygiene measures at the event, including hundreds of hand sanitiser dispensers and extra wash basins.’ In Liverpool a day after Cheltenham opened, around 3,000 visiting fans were allowed to mingle in bars and restaurants before the Champions League game, despite the fact Madrid was the epicentre of the outbreak in Spain, and at that point accounted for almost half of the country’s confirmed cases. Liverpool supporter Joel Rookwood, who has been ill for eight weeks, believes he caught coronavirus at the match, telling the BBC: ‘The celebrations were some of the most physical that I’ve experienced. People were jumping all over each other.’ Prof Spector said: ‘I think sporting events should have been shut down at least a week earlier because they’ll have caused increased suffering and death that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred.’ In a statement, the government said: ‘There are many factors that could influence the number of cases in a particular area, including population density, age, general health, and the position of an area on the pandemic curve.’

Eric Dier thinks Tottenham could already have the next Glenn Hoddle at the club

With some of the Premier League’s greatest players beginning to forge careers in the dugout, such as Frank Lampard at Chelsea, Mikel Arteta at Arsenal and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United – it’s time to turn attention to which current players may be the next to step into the manager’s suit.

And they too may one day return to the clubs where they once played – as seems to be the fashion these days.

At Tottenham, only Glenn Hoddle and Tim Sherwood have taken the job having been former players since the turn of the century – and both flattered to deceive in their short spells in the White Hart Lane dugouts.

Daniel Levy will hope that, in a few years time, he will be able to pick up the phone to one of the following players to give them the top job at Spurs.

Jan Vertonghen

One of Spurs’ most senior and most revered players, Vertonghen joined the club in 2012 from Ajax and has provided some incredible memories in the Lilywhite kit. With his contract up in the summer and his age beginning to show, Vertonghen must have started to think about life outside the white lines. However, his leadership, intelligence, passion and hunger show that the next stage of his career may lie not too far from the touchline.

According to Eric Dier, Vertonghen feels this is “impossible” but the Englishman added that “he has all the ingredients for it – he loves football, he’s always watching football and he’s just got that profile – he’s intelligent, speaks well and everyone respects him. He looks like a manager, he’s got the haircut and everything.”

If Vertonghen chooses to take up management, he would be more than welcome back at Spurs as an academy coach to learn his trade – as so many have done over the years, including Ledley King, Ryan Mason, the aforementioned Sherwood, Les Ferdinand and more.

Should he develop, Tottenham fans would love to see ‘Super Jan’ one day manage the club to glory.

Hugo Lloris

As Spurs’ captain and leader, this speaks for itself. While Lloris is quiet and reserved, much is made of his influence within the changing room and his approach with his teammates – old and young. With his CV as World Cup winning captain for France added into the mix, the 32 year-old has got the leadership aspect tied up.

On top of this, Lloris was a close friend of Mauricio Pochettino during the Argentine’s time at Spurs, and the two were often seen speaking during training sessions along with Pochettino’s staff – with Lloris almost an added member of the staff.

A move to becoming a goalkeeping coach would make a lot of sense, but there’s no reason why the Frenchman can’t become a manager too. Examples of goalkeepers becoming managers are notoriously few and far between but Nuno Espirito Santo of Wolves has shown that the path is one that can be tread.
Harry Kane

Another obvious choice – Kane, in the eyes of some, is Spurs’ de facto leader – and assumes the captain’s armband in Lloris’ absence. The poster boy for the club and a player well on course to legendary status – Kane is also captain of England. His leadership qualities have been spoken of by both club and country colleagues, and his ability to lead by performance and setting the standard is obvious to all who have the fortune of watching him.

Now approaching 27, Kane’s thoughts must slowly be moving towards his future career – and he has in fact stated a desire to become an NFL kicker upon retiring as a ‘soccer’ player.

Beyond that, though, there’s no reason why Kane can’t become a coach. Upon seeing Duncan Ferguson bursting up and down the touchline during Everton’s win over Chelsea in December, many Spurs fans dreamt of that one day being their superstar.

Ben Davies

A left-field shout, but Davies is regarded by a few of the players at Spurs as the most intelligent member of the squad – though that may be down to the fact that he ‘reads’, according to Dele Alli who said, “I don’t know if he actually is (a bookworm) but he comes across to me as if he would sit alone and read a book.”

Harry Winks also said similarly, “He just knows everything. If I sit down and have a conversation, it could be about politics, he just knows everything.”

In the same feature with Soccer AM, Dier said, “Smart guy. He looks smart, sounds smart, I think he genuinely is smart!”

On top of such glowing reviews, Davies has shown the ability to play in three positions during his Spurs career – on the left of a back three, left back in a back four and left wing back in a back three/five. His tactical versatility will have been helped by working under Pochettino, Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers and Chris Coleman during his club and Wales career – and he may be a dark horse to become a manager one day.

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Andriy Lunin made his third loan move in the winter transfer market, joining Segunda side, Real Oviedo. In Spain’s Asturias region, he has finally found continuity. Oviedo manager, Jose Angel Ziganda, immediately placed his trust in Lunin. The young goalkeeper has started all nine of their league fixtures since arriving in January. Despite having tough loan spells at Leganes and Valladollid, Lunin is still seen as one of the top goalkeeping prospects in the world. He spoke with AS about his future and a potential return to Real Madrid after the season ends.

“I prepare myself every day to play for Real Madrid. I will do everything that depends on me to succeed and we will see what happens,” he commented. “As for my future, everything depends on Madrid. They told me that I will finish the season with Oviedo, and then we will talk.”

Lunin’s sole focus now is avoiding relegation with Real Oviedo. The club sit just 1 point off of the four relegation positions — something unfathomable for a historic club who have predominately played in La Liga over their 94-year history.

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German soccer is normally a riot of color and noise. No longer.

The Bundesliga season resumed Saturday with what German fans call “ghost games,” played without spectators, and in Dortmund it was hard to tell that the city’s beloved team was playing at all.

Instead of thousands of fans chatting and drinking beer outside the stadium, there were only a few locals out for a weekend bike ride as Borussia Dortmund hosted Schalke in a usually fierce local rivalry.

On the field, there were fireworks as Erling Haaland scored in a 4-0 win after two months of no games. Outside the stadium there was near silence. Passersby occasionally asked whether a game was actually going on.

Police relaxed as it became clear that fans wouldn’t gather outside — a concern for authorities ahead of the game — and potentially spread the virus.

“It is really very calm in the city and regarding the virus dangers I can only praise the Dortmunders and the fans,” police spokesman Oliver Peiler said.

The song “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” a favorite of Dortmund fans as well as Liverpool supporters, echoed around the stadium ahead of kickoff. It was so quiet that the starting whistle could be heard outside — unthinkable at a regular game.

The arena has an 81,000 capacity but league rules permit just 213 people, including players, to be inside for the game, none of them supporters. Players tried to keep contact to a minimum, even during celebrations and the traditional salute to the — now empty — stands at the final whistle.

In the city center ahead of the match, longtime Dortmund fan Marco Perz sat outside the German Football Museum in a jacket patched with club emblems. He said he hasn’t missed a home game since the 1990s.

“I’d normally be on the South Stand right now, in the yellow wall,” he said, referring to the vast terrace which underpins Dortmund’s reputation for passionate support. Now Perz is planning to watch the game with a friend over food and a beer. “The main thing is to see the game,” he added.

On the next street, face masks were on sale in Dortmund’s yellow and black, with the stallholder saying they were the most popular on offer.

Local authorities had pleaded with fans not to mass outside the stadium.

“Anyone who stands in front of the stadium because they want to follow the game has got it wrong,” Dortmund mayor Ullrich Sierau said Wednesday. “It’s an appeal to the good sense of all fans, and I’m sure that the fans of both Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund are sensible people.”

Dortmund fan Nicole Bartelt said she would stay away from the stadium — which she called “the temple” — in the hope of showing fans could be trusted to return sooner rather than later for games.

If fans gather, “we’ll end up waiting even longer to be back,” she said.

Police were spread along the road by the stadium in vans, on motorbikes and horseback. There have been clashes between fans at Dortmund-Schalke games before, but the police had little to do except remind TV crews to stand further away from each other as they filmed team buses arriving. One bus driver blasted out a Dortmund club song as he drove away.

Dortmund’s last game was in an empty stadium too, but with big crowds outside.

Thousands of Paris Saint-Germain supporters gathered outside the Parc des Princes as their team beat Dortmund in the Champions League on March 11.

Those scenes — and the decision of PSG players to sing along with the fans — showed that a game risks spreading the disease even without letting a single supporter into the arena. Similar scenes the same evening at a Bundesliga game between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne caused concern.

During the following two days, the German, English, French and Spanish leagues all opted to suspend competition rather than play in empty stadiums, at least for the time being.

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Chelsea set to lose out on £60m target because he prefers a switch to Man United

Frank Lampard could be set to be disappointed in the summer transfer market, whenever that will be open for business, after it was revealed that one of his striking targets prefers a move to Manchester United.

The Daily Star note that the Red Devils are growing increasingly confident of being able to sign Lyon’s Moussa Dembele in a £60m deal, and have been chasing him for a year as they see the former Celtic man as the true successor to Romelu Lukaku, now at Inter.

Although Chelsea are also interested say the Daily Star, the outlet suggest that Dembele has made his feelings clear to the powers that be at the Old Trafford outfit.

With 16 goals and two assists in 27 games for Lyon according to Transfermarkt, the ability that the player could bring to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s front line is obvious, and the Norwegian will surely be encouraged to know that Dembele’s preference is to come to Manchester.

Given the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, now it’s down to United’s hierarchy to get the deal over the line and for the right price.

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A Manchester City themed aircraft that was unveiled by Premier League stars in October has been converted into a cargo plane to collect frozen beef from Sudan during the coronavirus pandemic.

The eyecatching 787-9 Dreamliner, which is emblazoned with the Sky Blues’ crest and owned by Etihad, landed in Khartoum on Wednesday to pick up 24 tons of meat before jetting off again for the UAE.

No passengers were aboard the aircraft, which was launched as part of the Etihad fleet last year by players Leroy Sané and Karen Bardsley, as well as club legend Joleon Lescott.

Several photographs taken by onlookers show the Premier League-branded aeroplane standing at Khartoum airport while it was loaded up with beef before returning to the Gulf.

The Manchester City aeroplane normally functions as a regular passenger jet and is not used by the football team.

Etihad has a large cargo operation, but has been forced to repurpose some of its passenger fleet as freighters during the coronavirus pandemic, including the Man City jet.

There has been a spike in demand for freight aircraft because most passenger flights – which usually carry some cargo in addition to luggage – have been cancelled.

The flagship aircraft, which was given City colours last year to celebrate the club’s partnership with Etihad Airways, joined 21 other 787s and 787-10s to take on cargo duties.

It has already been used to transport freight to and from numerous destinations including Manila, Cairo, Brussels, Casablanca, Jeddah, Zurich and Delhi. The plane has carried many different cargoes, including food, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and perishables.

Manchester City FC is owned by 49-year-old Sheikh Mansour, deputy prime minister of the UAE and half-brother of the Emerati leader Khalifa Al Nahyan.

The presence of the sky blue plane in Khartoum created some confusion last week, with media mistakenly reporting that it was flying UAE officials to Sudan for clandestine talks.

It was wrongly alleged that powerful Emirati National Security Adviser Tahnoon bin Zayed was secretly visiting the country to drum up support for Libyan rebel commander Khalifa Haftar.

The Sudanese military and government, which insist they are neutral on the Libyan civil war, furiously denied these claims, branding them ‘fake news’ and threatening to shut down media outlets responsible.

Up to 3,000 Sudanese mercenaries are thought to be fighting in Libya for the rebel forces against the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU).

Other reports erroneously suggested that the 234-seat Premier League-themed airliner was carrying humanitarian aid to the northeastern African nation.

According to transport documentation seen by MailOnline, there were four people aboard the plane: the pilot, co-pilot, an engineer and a dispatcher.

Meat products and live animals are among Sudan’s principal exports, with thousands of tons being sold to the UAE each year. This is thought to be the first time it has been delivered by a Manchester City airliner.