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Wayne Rooney says the government and football authorities have treated footballers as “guinea pigs” during the coronavirus outbreak.
Elite football in Britain has been suspended until at least 3 April, with the Premier League saying “conditions at the time” will determine its return.
“For players, staff and their families it has been a worrying week,” he said.
“One in which you felt a lack of leadership from the government and from the FA and Premier League.”
Writing in his column in the Sunday Times, the former England captain said: “The rest of sport – tennis, Formula 1, rugby, golf, football in other countries – was closing down and we were being told to carry on.
“I think a lot of footballers were wondering, ‘Is it something to do with money being involved in this?’. Why did we wait until Friday? Why did it take Mikel Arteta [Arsenal manager] to get ill for the game in England to do the right thing?
“After the emergency meeting, at last the right decision was made – until then it almost felt like footballers in England were being treated like guinea pigs.
“I know how I feel. If any of my family get infected through me because I’ve had to play when it’s not safe, and they get seriously ill, I’d have to think hard about ever playing again. I would never forgive the authorities.”
Now, 34 the former Everton and Manchester United player is just over two months into his time as a player-coach at Championship club Derby.
The Rams are currently five points off a play-off berth in the second tier with nine games of the season remaining, and Rooney believes there will have to be a radical restructure of the football calendar to allow fixtures to be fulfilled.
“We’re happy to play until September if the season extends to then, if that’s how it has to be. That’s our job,” Rooney added.
“As long as we know we’re safe to play and it’s a safe environment for spectators, we’ll play.
“The next World Cup is in November and December 2022, so you could actually use this situation as an opportunity and say we’re going to finish the 2019-20 season later this year, then prepare for 2022 by having the next two seasons starting in winter.”
Footballers’ messages of solidarity
World greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have led the way as footballers have sent their thoughts and best wishes to the world at large during the coronavirus outbreak.
In a post on Instagram, Messi said: “They are complicated days for everyone.
“We live worried about what is happening and we want to help putting ourselves in the place of those who are having the worst of it, either because it directly affected them or their family and friends, or because they are working on the frontline to combat it in hospitals and health centres.
“I want to send a lot of strength to all of them. Health must always come first. It is an exceptional moment and you must follow the instructions of both health organisations and public authorities.
“Only in this way can we combat it effectively. It is the time to be responsible and stay at home, it is also perfect to enjoy that time with yours that you can not always have. A hug and hopefully we can turn this situation around as soon as possible.”