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French federation medical boss justifies postponed Marseille opener

The coronavirus-enforced postponement of the Ligue 1 season opener on Friday was necessary not only for the health of the players but also club doctors, the French football federation’s medical chief said on Thursday.

After four players at Marseille tested positive for COVID-19, the league was left with no option other than to rescheduled their opening game of the 2020/21 campaign against Saint-Etienne.

“It was decided that from four isolated players this required caution as it means that the virus is circulating in the club,” Emmanuel Orhant, also a member of the league’s COVID-19 committee, told AFP.

“With one player we can say it’s a coincidence, a second or a third too, but a fourth we cannot.

“For the government, the premise of a cluster lies in three cases, and we told ourselves that from a fourth case, we no longer have control over health conditions.”

Restrictions, Orhant added, were then required immediately “to protect the health of the players, and also that of the opposing team”.

“We also cannot leave club doctors take risks.”

Nantes’ trip to Bordeaux originally scheduled for Saturday has been brought forward to start the new campaign.

Criticism from some clubs that the rules around coronavirus are draconian cut no mustard with Orhant.

“Sport is not above the law,” he said, explaining that the rules had been set by the French government.

Lille manager Christophe Galtier said the league’s decision to postpone matches sent out a “bad sign”.

“We were one of the rare leagues to stop our championship and when we restart there are already matches postponed,” Galtier said, with the 2019/20 Ligue 1 term declared over in April due to the coronavirus pandemic with Paris Saint-Germain named winners.

“The calendar is very compact and there will be an impact on the results.

“Can we take the risk of playing players who may be sick without knowing it yet? Can we take the risk of one infected team infecting another, I don’t think so.”

Galtier added: “We are responsible for the health of our players and we must avoid taking risks. But obviously, this is a bad signal.”

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