London (AFP) – England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed he has been abused in recent months for supporting the drive to encourage young people to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
Southgate led England to a first major tournament final in 55 years at Euro 2020, missing out on penalties to Italy.
His decisions to introduce Manchester United duo Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford late in extra time and nominate teenager Bukayo Saka as England’s fifth penalty taker were criticised after all three missed from the spot.
However, it was the video message in July supporting the UK government drive over young people getting themselves vaccinated that he says provoked the most outrage.
Southgate said as a result of the abuse he would be staying out of the debate over whether some players were refusing to be vaccinated due to misinformation.
“I was asked to do a video supporting the vaccination programme, which I thought was responsible and of all the things that I’ve received abuse for over the summer, of which there’s been several, that’s probably the one I’ve received the most abuse over,” Southgate said after announcing his squad for World Cup qualifiers next month.
“So I’m probably going to keep out of that argument for the time being.”
A number of leading Premier League managers, including Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, have publicly encouraged their players to get vaccinated, with case numbers rising in England.
– Varied vaccine take-up –
The latest round of Premier League testing revealed 16 positive cases among players or staff in the week between August 16 and 22.
Southgate said he believed Premier League club captains had a call with the UK’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam over the issue.
However, he revealed take-up of the vaccine has still been varied across different clubs.
The question of professional players having the Covid jab has become a live issue since the new campaign got under way.
Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow encouraged others to take up the vaccine after he was left hospitalised by the virus.
Arsenal’s start to the season has been hit by five positive cases, including captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and England international Ben White.
“With the vaccines it’s very much an individual situation,” added Southgate.
“Our only way out of this pandemic across the world are the vaccinations, certainly for the vulnerable people.
“I understand a lot of young people aren’t so keen, they are questioning things, I don’t know whether that is accurate or not.
“I never know now what to believe on social media: what’s news, what’s fake news.”
Southgate said it was of concern young players like Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson and Darlow had been badly affected by the virus.
And he suggested players may be motivated to get vaccinated if they are unable to represent their club or country abroad without a vaccination passport.
“It’s not necessarily accurate to say that as a young person you are not going to have complicated symptoms,” he said.
“I think as we go through the season some of the quarantining issues with Europe and everything else are going to be more complicated if you are not vaccinated.
“So I don’t know if that will play a factor in how clubs feel.”
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