(Reuters) - The Spanish footballer who refused to undergo COVID-19 testing as part of the first phase of the sport’s return to activity has defended his decision and promised to not receive a salary while he boycotts training and matches.
While players in the top two divisions returned to training grounds on Wednesday to undergo testing ahead of a planned return to action by June after a two-month halt due to the pandemic, Cadiz’s Rafael Gimenez, known as Fali, stayed home.
“I’m scared of infecting someone, that would ruin me and I’m thinking about health before money,” the defender, 26, told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser on Wednesday.
“I’m worried about the health of my daughters and my family. I was the first person to say that I will not earn a wage in this period and if even one Euro enters my account I’ll give it back.”
Cadiz currently lead Spain’s second division and are well placed to be promoted to La Liga for the first time in 15 years when action resumes in June after being postponed in March due to the pandemic, which has claimed over 26,000 lives in Spain.
Fali has been an outspoken critic of the plan to return to action in closed stadiums, which has the backing of the Spanish government and which organisers say is essential to guarantee the financial health of the sport.
Fali is the first player to refuse to undergo testing although members of the playing and coaching staff of La Liga side Eibar expressed their concern about retuning to training earlier this week.
La Liga says it understands players are concerned about getting back to work but that playing football under the league’s strict protocol was no more dangerous than going to the supermarket.
Cadiz president Manolo Vizcaino likened Fali’s reluctance to return to action to being injured and said he would not be punished for his stance.
“For us, Fali is injured and we have to help him and we want to get him back. I would like to see him training but I understand his position and we’re not going to give him any fine,” Vizcaino told Radio Marca.
In contrast to Fali, Sevilla player Nemanja Gudelj said he was pleased to take the first steps towards returning to normality.
“I’m not scared at all, I have full confidence in the club,” the Serbian told radio station Canal Sur.
“We have to follow the measures we have been given but I’m really excited about starting again.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge