Brazil FA expects Europe-based players for qualifiers despite COVID concerns

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) expects Europe-based players, including Paris St Germain striker Neymar, to travel to South America for World Cup qualifiers next week, despite concerns over COVID-19 and the risk of conflicts with top clubs.

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Neymar during an international friendly against Senegal in Singapore National Stadium, Singapore, October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim/File Photo

Brazil face Bolivia in Sao Paulo on Oct. 9 and then travel to Lima to take on Peru four days later and all of South America’s national teams are in action during the international break.

While both Asia and CONCACAF - the North and Central American and Caribbean regions - have postponed qualifiers until March due to COVID, South America will press ahead.

However, borders are closed in several countries - where exceptions would have to be agreed with governments for teams to enter - and there are high rates of the pandemic around South America.

CBF president Rogerio Caboclo told Reuters that while he is aware that Major League Soccer (MLS), which contains clubs in the United States and Canada, has raised objections, he does not anticipate any other issues with clubs releasing players.

“Only the MLS declared it wanted to keep the players under quarantine and so make releasing them more difficult,” he said.

“No one else. The deadline for any refusal has come and gone so I want to believe that there won’t be any problems.”

Many of the world’s top players from leading European clubs are involved in the games, including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and PSG’s Neymar, who have been called up by Argentina and Brazil respectively.

Three players from Premier League champions Liverpool, Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino, have all been called by Brazil.

FIFA is expected to announce this week that the normal regulations, which oblige clubs to release players for qualifiers and competitive games, will be unchanged although they may allows clubs to reject call-ups for friendly games.

European national teams are also in action with Nations League matches, which also count as competitive games.

Last week, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, general secretary of the global players’ union FIFPro, told Reuters that players should be allowed to decide if they wanted to travel without fear of sanctions.

“The players need to be able to make free decisions,” he said. “It’s a region heavily infected by the pandemic and there are certain COVID-19 restrictions and travel warnings.”

The MLS’s stance could also cause some problems for some national teams. The Peru squad for their qualifiers includes seven players from MLS.

MLS currently requires players arriving from abroad to quarantine for minimum of 10 days. Canada, with three MLS clubs, has a 14-day quarantine period.

Reporting by Simon Evans, Additional reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Christian Radnedge