June 18, 2020 / 9:06 PM / 24 days ago

Soccer-UEFA chief defends decision to play internationals in September

BERN, June 18 (Reuters) - UEFA’s decision to allocate a window for international matches in September was made to prevent the coronavirus stoppage causing further damage to national team football, its president Aleksander Ceferin said on Thursday.

Ceferin appeared to be responding to comments from Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who said he would prefer September to be free of internationals so players can recover from the late end to the 2019-20 club season.

The current season was halted for around three months in most European countries due to the coronavirus and leagues are now rushing to finish by early August.

The Champions League and Europa Leagues will be completed with eight-team tournaments in Portugal and Germany, finishing in late August. The 2020-21 season will get under way around mid-September.

UEFA agreed on Wednesday to go ahead with international windows in September, October and November, with teams playing two matches in September and three in each of October and November.

The dates will be used to play matches in the group stage of the 2020-21 Nations League plus friendlies and the delayed Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs.

“I don’t think that what has just been discussed is a good idea and, hopefully, it’s not yet finally decided,” Rummenigge told ZDF television.

However, Ceferin said the postponement of Euro 2020 had come at a significant cost to national team football and was made so that this season’s club competitions could be finished.

“Preserving the September international window prevents national team football from suffering further damage – a price that would be paid at every level of the game but that would be felt particularly harshly at grassroots level,” he said.

“As guardians of the game across the whole of Europe, we cannot allow that to happen.” (Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)

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