Hugging football players threatened with yellow card in Belgium

Hugging football players threatened with yellow card in Belgium
Credit: Virginie Lefour/Belga

Football players who hug each other on the pitch while celebrating a goal or a victory could soon get punished by a yellow card for it, as it violates Belgium's coronavirus measures.

On Wednesday, the Board of Directors of the Belgian Pro League (the top league competition for association football clubs in the country) will discuss whether the referee can punish such group hugs with a yellow card.

The continued jumping in each other's arms and hugging fellow players on the field has sparked a lot of criticism in Belgium, as the coronavirus measures dictate that everyone can only have one so-called "cuddle contact."

Questioned about the hugging athletes on Flemish television on Sunday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated that the rule says it is not allowed. "I ask the football association to be a little stricter about that," he added.

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"We certainly understand the concerns of the population," Stijn Van Bever, communications manager of the Pro League, told Het Laatste Nieuws.

"We should avoid hugs and collective celebrations after a goal as much as possible," he added. "We are also going to underline that with the different clubs again."

On Monday, CEO of football club RSC Anderlecht, Karel Van Eetvelt, already commented on the criticism players received on Twitter.

"Complete understanding that hugging on football fields evokes criticism," he tweeted. "We should be setting an example."

The club asked the Board to discuss the behaviour, according to Anderlecht's spokesperson Jan Gatz.

"We want to include in the Rules of Procedure that those who do not comply with the measures risk a yellow card. This will be discussed with all clubs tomorrow," he said.

However, coming to a decision will not be easy, according to Van Bever of the Pro League.

"Such a yellow-card system is easier said than done," he said. "Where do you draw the line when a goal is being celebrated? What if players are celebrating on the bench? Do you give them a yellow card too? We have to find a way to work this out, so that it is feasible for everyone."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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