Nathan Blake: Football's return amid coronavirus 'crazy'

Ryan Giggs and Nathan Blake
Nathan Blake (R) played alongside current Wales manager Ryan Giggs at international level

Former Wales striker Nathan Blake says it is "crazy" for footballers to go back to training or matches until the spread of coronavirus has been eliminated.

Most Premier League players returned to training on Wednesday, 20 May.

Adrian Mariappa confirmed he is one of three players at Watford to have tested positive for Covid-19 and captain Troy Deeney has refused to train.

Asked if he would return now, Blake said: "Hell no, no way, no chance."

The ex-Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bolton Wanderers forward told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast: "I wouldn't be putting myself at risk.

"And I wouldn't expect any fans to put themselves at risk and come and watch a game."

Coronavirus has been linked with greater risks for people of BAME origin and earlier this month than 70 public figures called for a full independent public inquiry into deaths from the virus among people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die with coronavirus as white people in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Blake said: "This is entertainment at the end of the day and all this "the show must go on" and all that nonsense - it's easy to say, it's a little different in reality though.

"So for me, black people are clearly affected in a different way to white people or our white counterparts.

"I wouldn't be thinking about it [returning] at all.

"I would be expecting someone to come to me and guarantee my safety and we're not there yet."

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante is among those to have missed training over coronavirus fears, with the backing of his manager Frank Lampard while Deeney cited fears for his family's health.

"You've got a situation where it is literally life or death for a lot of people; a lot of people have been touched by what's gone on," Blake added. "I think it's crazy, really (to consider returning to football)."

Different stages of government regulations are in place and evolving in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Welsh Government has yet to confirm it will give official backing to Swansea City and Cardiff City's return to training as plans are forged for the Championship to return.

The UK government dictates events in England, where the go-ahead for contact training is expected to be given "later this week".

However, Blake is unconvinced by that prospect.

"People are scared out of their wits. I heard about people being dished out fines and what have you for being out and about [in Wales] and at the same time you're asking professional footballers just to return to action as if everything's A-okay.

"So for me, personally, I totally understand why people have their reservations about going back.

"I just think you're asking too much. I think you have to get to a position where you've got the whole situation in every country in the United Kingdom under control and then you can start to move forward when people's stresses are eased a bit.

"This isn't about whether you've got money or not or whether you're a football fan or sports fan or not; like I said, it's a case of life and death first and foremost and I don't see why anyone should be asked to play and go back to training until you know for sure that this virus isn't being contracted by people and being passed on to other people."

Mariappa and two staff members at Watford and Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan were among six positive Premier League tests for coronavirus.

The positive tests at Watford were among 748 conducted in professional football last weekend. But the seemingly low number of cases does not impress Blake.

"That's fine, but this is a virus, right, not something you can see. Everyone's an expert but no-one really knows exactly what to say, what to do." he added.

"So from a players' perspective are you going out there fully aware that every single player and every single member of staff is being tested or in and around you is going through the right procedures?

"It's almost impossible to manage.

"I think you just have to get to the position, like I said where the [UK] countries, are getting zero cases and people are allowed to move on and move forward with their lives."

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