Gareth Southgate says some footballers are not vaccinated against Covid-19 because they are swayed by conspiracy theories on social media.
The England manager featured a video after Euro 2020 urging people to get vaccinated and was abused online as a result.
Acceptance of the vaccine among professional footballers has been sporadic, with Southgate admitting that he is not sure how many of his current England team have received both doses.
“I think within the age group and age range (of their players), I don’t have all the data and statistics, I would feel that younger people are on a different scale in terms of acceptance by older people,” said.
“They seem to be more susceptible to social media posts or living their lives on social media, where perhaps a lot of those theories abound. We could just talk to our GP and do things that way.
“But look, who knows, I could be sitting here five years from now and have been wrong. With some of the other problems, it has become very clear what is right and what is wrong. I have been willing to talk about that, but could I say one hundred percent that the vaccination program is safe? Well, I could not because I am not a chemist and I am not a doctor and I am not a scientist.
“I imagine that we would not be in the position that we are in the mass vaccination program without research being done and without governments and doctors being totally safe, so I feel comfortable taking that risk.”
While footballers, particularly those in and around the England team of late, have raised awareness and fought against racism, anti-discrimination and other issues, the majority remain private when it comes to the vaccination program. .
Southgate doesn’t blame them and pointed to an example of the abuse he received for supporting the NHS vaccination campaign as a reason some may be discouraged.
“I recognize that others may feel less comfortable and have some anxiety,” he added. “That’s why it’s a bit more complicated and I guess that would be the reason why they might feel less confident talking.
“If you get messages when you support the show that say ‘You could be facing a Nuremberg-type trial in 10 years’ and people are quite cruel to the comments, it makes you think twice before you speak.
“Because what if you’re on the wrong side? At the moment I can’t be sure I’m on the right side. I feel comfortable getting the vaccine.”
“I feel comfortable thinking it was the right thing to do to make a video for the NHS. But I also recognize that others may not be as interested in putting themselves in that situation.”
“With racism they are absolutely clear. They know what they have lived and experienced as a team.
“At their age they are more open to some of these conspiracy theories because they read more social media, maybe they are more vulnerable to those kinds of views. From what I can see, there is a bit of confusion.”
Southgate also suggested that medical confidentiality is the basis for their players not to publicly share their Covid vaccination status.
The Three Lions prepare for the World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary during the seventh international match since the coronavirus changed the landscape.
This camp comes amid new scrutiny over vaccination rates in soccer and Qatar’s World Cup organizers are reportedly planning to ban unvaccinated players.
The players have given little indication of their vaccination status in media activity since joining the team in St George’s Park and Southgate insists it is not up to him or the Football Association to instruct the team on whether they should disclose their stance on vaccines.
“There is a thing called medical confidentiality that seems to be completely overlooked in many areas right now,” he said on the eve of Andorra’s match.
“These are not our players. I don’t think the clubs would appreciate us for sharing that kind of information and frankly, it’s personal to the players. I’m sure you have the GDPR in your workplace, you’ll be aware of all that.
“Our doctor for the last year and a half has always talked with the players about the current situation in terms of contagion in the country.
“He is always explaining the benefits of vaccination in that context. But no, of course we have had to deal with many different issues, but we also have to prepare a team to play football.
“We are here to play soccer. The players are here to play soccer. We really can’t have much of an impact in the next two or three days; we certainly can’t hit everyone in the next two or three days.”
“I will always talk to the players about anything in their lives. But we are here to win soccer games first and foremost.
“Look, everyone knows my position on the matter. To get out of a pandemic, the only way was a vaccination program and I think that was essential.
“Then there’s the complication that there are a lot of individual circumstances surrounding that and I understand that some people would be anxious, maybe.”