Bayern Munich must compete in the Champions League without five quarantined players, including Joshua Kimmich, as the absent midfield dynamo fuels debate in Germany after refusing to be vaccinated against Covid.
Before Tuesday’s match against Dynamo Kyiv, the Bavarian giants have already secured a place in the last 16 as Group E winners.
Kimmich, who refused to be vaccinated due to “personal concerns,” was quarantined for the second time this month on Friday after coming into contact with someone who tested positive.
Bayern confirmed their other unvaccinated players, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala, on Sunday
Because of a new coronavirus exposure, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Michael Cuisance are also under quarantine. Five players being sidelined due to their own decisions is an unwelcome distraction before heading to Ukraine.
“It’s annoying,” said head coach Julian Nagelsmann before the weekend, irritated that few questions about football are being asked because “we seem to be only talking about the pandemic.”
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‘It’s not an excuse.’
Bayern particularly missed Kimmich’s presence in midfield in Friday’s 2-1 defeat at Augsburg, as stand-in Marcel Sabitzer struggled, allowing the hosts to gain possession, which led to one of the hosts’ goals.
Nagelsmann must now find suitable replacements in Kyiv for first-choice stars Kimmich and Gnabry.
Bayern’s Bundesliga lead was reduced to a point after their defeat in Augsburg, but Nagelsmann refused to blame Kimmich’s forced absence. “There is no excuse,” he said.
Nonetheless, Kimmich continues to make daily headlines in Germany for all the wrong reasons.
Critics accuse him of ignoring his responsibilities as a role model, urging Kimmich to get vaccinated in order to set an example in football-crazed Germany.
Germany has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, at around 68%, and outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Kimmich to reconsider.
Bayern executives reportedly summoned Kimmich and his unvaccinated teammates on Thursday to inform them that their pay will be reduced while they are in isolation due to their failure to take the vaccine.
Employees who miss work due to quarantine are no longer entitled to compensation if they are unvaccinated, according to new rules that went into effect on November 1.
Kimmich’s annual salary is said to be around 20 million euros ($23 million), so a week’s quarantine means a loss of around 384,000 euros.
Former Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on Sunday that the wage cuts if confirmed, are “a sign that the club is now reacting.” Because it has to respond.”
The five unvaccinated stars’ stance has enraged Bayern fans, who must show proof that they are fully vaccinated or recovered just to attend games.
The players, on the other hand, only need to provide a negative test result.
On Friday, Germany was gripped by a vicious fourth wave, with a weekly incidence rate of 340.7 recorded infections per 100,000 people. With politicians struggling to contain the pandemic and hospital beds rapidly filling, new measures announced Friday in Saxony and Bavaria are already set to reduce the number of stadium spectators.
Work or leisure?
Kimmich, and any other footballers who choose not to be vaccinated, may be barred from competing in Germany due to controversial calls for mandatory vaccinations for professional athletes.
“It depends on whether that (sport) is in a work environment or in the leisure world,” Merkel says.
Employers in Germany are not allowed to make vaccination mandatory for their employees, but the 2G rule – which states that only those who have been vaccinated or recovered are allowed to participate – applies to leisure activities.
“It’s leisure time for those in the stands, work for those on the pitch,” said Hendrik Wuest, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia.
“I believe we need to move on.”
The Bundesliga, on the other hand, is skeptical of mandatory vaccination.
“The same rules apply to everyone,” Borussia Dortmund coach Marco Rose said. “I wouldn’t make a distinction between football players and construction workers.”
Similarly, Cologne coach Steffen Baumgart believes it is “critical to getting vaccinated in order to successfully fight the virus.” But it’s risky to always put footballers in the spotlight as role models.
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