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Mandanda leaves France squad amid argument over Covid rules

Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines (France) (AFP) – The French football federation on Friday acknowledged their error had led to goalkeeper Steve Mandanda being excluded from the national squad following a positive Covid-19 test.

Mandanda first tested positive on August 16 but remained asymptomatic. Even though “residual” traces of the virus showed up in his tests, he was deemed non-contagious and rejoined the Marseille team last Sunday as they beat Brest in Ligue 1.

The question of whether the 35-year-old should have been deemed positive after the test with the national team on Thursday, was the centre of the complaints as Mandanda headed home on Friday.

“Mandanda should not be considered as sick or contagious,” said the FFF in a statement. “UEFA should have received his complete medical file, in English, as provided for in the regulations.”

Marseille said they felt that calling up Mandanda and then sending him home made them look bad. 

But the FFF said it “wishes to make it clear” that it did not “question the seriousness and probity of Marseille and its staff”.

The FFF said it had allowed Mandanda to train normally with the rest of the squad at the French team’s base in Clairefontaine.

“Steve is not contagious, and what’s more, he has always been asymptomatic,” a source close to the player told AFP. “If he were positive, he would have infected someone else on the French team.”

“Everyone is passing the buck.”

Mandanda “feels like a pariah”, the source said.

Because there was no time to conduct tests on a new goalkeeper, France coach Didier Deschamps only took captain Hugo Lloris and Mike Maignan from Lille, to Sweden for the Nations League match in Solna on Saturday. A third goalkeeper should join the squad for the home game against Croatia on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, Mandanda is free to play for Marseille in their next league match against Paris Saint-Germain on September 13, if it takes place.

Both clubs are battling coronavirus outbreaks and Marseille closed their training ground on Friday.

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