|Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy scored twice in front of 52,000 people at Anfield this week. AFP Photo
Each year, both Liverpool and Everton footballers visit Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in the city. I’m sure stars of other football clubs around England do the same at their local health facilities.
It really is a special day for the children, some of whom are desperately ill, when they get to meet their idols and pose for photographers.
This year, because of COVID, Liverpool players never visited the hospital and instead connected with the kids virtually. And while a Zoom chat isn’t the same as getting to meet someone like Mo Salah in the flesh, it still lifts the spirits of the children being treated at the hospital.
There was no visit last year either, when COVID was again disrupting life as we know it.
But also this week, Liverpool played Leicester in the Caraboa Cup quarter final in front of a little over 52,000 spectators at Anfield.
I’m not entirely sure why it was deemed safe to pack so many people into the ground, many without face masks and just yards from the players, but popping into a local hospital to bring some Christmas cheer to the children was considered a risk?
There really is no rhyme and reason to what’s going on right now in the UK with regards to football. Despite pleas from Premier League managers to put games on hold for the next few weeks, the powers that be have said no, carry on as is.
Liverpool were due to play Leeds United on Boxing Day but that game has been postponed. Then again against Leicester two days later. On January 2, they play Chelsea, then it’s Arsenal a few days after that in the semi-final first leg of the Caraboa Cup. Between now and January 15 they have six games.
Other clubs will also have congestion issues and it’s not just the players who are suffering. Earlier this week Sunderland travelled to Arsenal for their Caraboa quarter final which kicked off at 8pm UK time.
That’s a journey of more than five hours. Fans that travelled south from Sunderland won’t have gotten home until at the earliest 3am the next morning. To make matters worse, they lost by five goals to one.
With the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus wreaking havoc in the UK, and proving to be far more contagious that previous variants, something really has to give.
On Monday the league announced its intention to continue with the scheduled matches over the Christmas period, even though there were 90 confirmed COVID cases among players and staff last week.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson voiced his concerns over player welfare, because of the amount of games played in a short space of time coupled with the very real coronavirus risks.
Henderson told the BBC: “Football to us is everything and we want to be able to perform at the highest level every time we set foot on the pitch. And unfortunately, in this period it is difficult to do that.
“That has been like this for a few years now and it has been difficult but then, on top of that, you chuck in COVID and it becomes even harder and even worse. I am concerned that nobody really takes player welfare seriously.”
Football is something so many people love so much it would be a crying shame to put matches on hold over the next few weeks, but something’s got to give.
And if the youngsters at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital can do without a visit from their favourite players at Christmas this year, supporters too can make sacrifices and go a few weeks without their football fix.
Liverpool players Zoom chat with patients at Alder Hey Children's Hospital.