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FAI vows to ‘respect’ and ‘accept’ Republic players’ decisions on Covid-19 jabs

Callum Robinson
(Image credit: Trenka Attila)

The Football Association of Ireland has insisted it must “respect” and “accept” the choice of players not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 despite the disruption the virus has caused.

A day after Republic of Ireland striker Callum Robinson revealed he had opted not to be inoculated against coronavirus despite twice testing positive, the FAI issued a statement confirming it had encouraged the take-up of the vaccine, but could go no further.

It said: “The Football Association of Ireland can confirm that all players and staff are tested for Covid-19 before reporting for international duty with Republic of Ireland teams and are tested repeatedly in camp in line with FAI and UEFA protocols.

“We have encouraged all our players at all levels of the game to be vaccinated, but we respect and must accept the right of all individuals to make a personal choice on Covid-19 vaccination.

“The association will continue to exercise the highest standards for the safety of all our stakeholders. Our Covid-19 testing protocols for all players and staff on international duty strictly follow UEFA protocols and are compliant with all Irish Government guidelines.

“The FAI reconfirms our support for all Government, UEFA and FIFA protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic. We thank all our stakeholders for their ongoing exemplary compliance with Government guidelines over the last 19 months.”

Robinson’s admission, and manager Stephen Kenny’s revelation that several members of the current senior squad have not been double-jabbed, came days after Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp questioned the degree of reluctance among Premier League players to have the injections.

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has encouraged his players to be vaccinated

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has encouraged his players to be vaccinated (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland have been hit repeatedly by positive tests and close contact absences over the last 12 months, and under-21s boss Jim Crawford will be unable to call upon seven UK and Germany-based players for his side’s European Championship qualifier in Montenegro next week because of its red-list status and the implications for those men on their return.

As Kenny and his senior squad prepared to fly out to Azerbaijan on Wednesday ahead of Saturday evening’s World Cup qualifier in Baku, he admitted his frustration at the situation while acknowledging the right of individuals to choose.

He said: “I was very happy to be (vaccinated) myself and encouraged staff and players. Of course it seems like the most sensible thing to do, and the safest with regard to our environment.

“There are a lot of myths and a lot of issues around virility that people are concerned about and other issues, you know, and I do think it is complex. I am not a medical expert, but I do trust the experts and I do think it is better to be double vaccinated.”

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West Brom frontman Robinson, 26, has not ruled out vaccination at some point in the future, but is standing by his decision for now.

He said: “I know there are managers and people that will want you to do it, which is right in their way, the way they think, but everyone has their choice and what they want to do.

“I wouldn’t force people to do it – it’s your choice and your body.”