Footballers hugging: Charlie Austin, Curtis Davies & Glenn Murray say 'impossible' to control emotion

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Updated guidelines have been issued by the Premier League

The behaviour of footballers has come under scrutiny this week as the authorities look to clamp down on goal celebrations as part of the fight against the spread of Covid-19.

Players and clubs have been reminded about their responsibility to limit unnecessary social contact, which includes handshakes, high-fives and hugs when a goal is scored.

But what do the players think?

Speaking on 72+, the BBC's new EFL podcast, QPR's new loan signing Charlie Austin, Derby defender Curtis Davies and on-loan Watford striker Glenn Murray questioned whether football can actually ban goal celebrations and whether trying to do so would remove some of the joy that makes the game so popular.

'The raw emotion just takes over'

Curtis Davies: "The emotion is what you can't replace. You can stop the handshakes beforehand for example and other unnecessary contact, but are you telling me if you have a young lad coming off the bench on his debut and scores a 90th-minute winner for his team he is not going to get mobbed? You are just going to stand there? How can you control the emotion? It's impossible."

Charlie Austin: "Scoring is the best feeling in the world. Imagine scoring a goal as a 16-year-old in the FA Cup and you have to stand there with your hands up like a Fifa emoji. It's not gonna happen.

"If you ask every footballer, the raw emotion just takes over."

Glenn Murray: "I just don't get it. I don't know where the game's going. You've got VAR, where you're in two minds whether to fully go for it. You've got no fans to celebrate with. And now they are asking not to celebrate. What's the point in playing?"

'We are bringing joy to people'

With new, more transmissible variants helping to fuel a rise in coronavirus cases and the country back in full lockdown, it is no surprise that sport also had to respond by tightening its protocols.

The game is a much-needed source of joy for millions of people at this difficult time, but there is also the need to set the right example. A difficult balancing act that players are acutely aware of.

Davies: "The regular football fan is out there social distancing. Hands, face, space and all that. Then there's footballers, I know they are in bubbles and trying to stick to regulations, that are high-fiving and hugging. It's bittersweet for a football fan to watch."

Murray: "It is, and it is unfortunate. But footballers are getting regular tests. They spend a lot of time together off the field. They train together, eat in small bubbles, travel together in small bubbles, stay in hotels when needs be. So I don't understand why they don't celebrate. They do all that together but can't celebrate. It doesn't make sense."

Austin: "We are actually bringing joy to people. For the people who are at home, who aren't working, that love football. If it comes off the TV then it is even more doom and gloom than what we are told in the news."

'You're going be wrestling him for the whole game'

The enhanced Covid guidelines stress the need to avoid "unnecessary contact, particularly between opposition clubs".

But with normal contact in a game involving tackles, competing for headers and marking each other at corners, players struggle to see how banning celebrating will make much of a difference to safety.

Murray: "I was a forward who had to go back for corners. Say I'm marking Curtis. The corner is taken and I'm touch-tight with Curtis for 20 to 30 seconds per corner, bearing in mind he is in an opposition camp. We concede eight corners. That gives me two minutes 30 seconds to four minutes in close proximity to Curtis.

"And you're telling me I can do that but I can't celebrate with my team-mates I spend every day with?"

Davies: "You're going be wrestling him for the whole game. You're going to be in a close proximity for a large part of the game, closer than any of your team-mates. But then you're told you can't celebrate with your own team-mates.

"You're in the changing rooms together, you're in meetings together. And, OK, the meetings are well ventilated and all the protocols are followed, but to then say you can't shake your own team-mate's hand?"

You can listen to the 72+ podcast via BBC Sounds

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