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Bayern Munich among Bundesliga teams refusing to release Austrians for qualifier against Scotland

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Austria coach Franco Foda will be forced to play an unrecognizable line-up for this one.

Austria v North Macedonia - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

The current COVID-19 regulations leave Austria with virtually no regular starters — including Bayern Munich’s David Alaba — to play in their upcoming World Cup qualifier on March 25th in Scotland. The German rules currently in place ban travel from Germany to Scotland, unless the individuals enter into a 14-day quarantine upon their return.

The Austrian national team had the option to reschedule the game to the fall but decided against it as they did not want to subject their players to a packed schedule of away games later this year. They gambled that the COVID regulations might have relaxed enough to allow their players to travel to the match but the restrictions will not change in time to solve the problem. Scotland is one of the countries that Germany does not allow an exemption for elite athletes travelling to and from.

As reported in the Scottish Sun, the Scottish FA was asked to consider moving the match to a neutral site (the game could not be switched to Austria as no flights from the UK are currently allowed to land in the country), but insisted that the match remain in Glasgow. Being in a group with the Faroe Islands and Israel already puts significant travel demands on both sides.

The problem materialized when the Austrian national team wrote to the Bundesliga club sides to request they release their players and a firm no came back quickly from Bayern, Frankfurt and Leipzig, meaning that Alaba, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Martin Hinteregger, and RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer would not be available. The rest of the Bundesliga has now followed in lock step leaving Austria boss Franco Foda with virtually no squad to field.

The decision was a tough one for the Austrians with coach Foda commenting:

“There was no satisfactory option in this situation. We made our decision with a view to the entire qualification campaign.

“If we had swapped home rights, we would have had to play three logistically challenging and gruelling away games within a course in Moldova, Israel and Scotland in September.

“We are also hoping for a real home advantage with our fans behind us in autumn. It is important for us that the decision has been made. Now it’s time to focus on the things that we can influence.”

In their last international match sixteen of the players from Austria’s squad were from Bundesliga clubs:

  • Aleksandar Dragovic (Bayer Leverkusen)
  • Christoph Baumgartner (Hoffenheim)
  • Christopher Trimmel (Union Berlin)
  • David Alaba (Bayern Munich)
  • Julian Baumgartlinger (captain - Bayer Leverkusen)
  • Karim Onisiwo (Mainz 05)
  • Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig)
  • Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt)
  • Michael Gregoritsch (FC Augsburg)
  • Pavao Pervan (Wolfsburg)
  • Philipp Lienhart (SC Freiburg)
  • Sasa Kalajdzic (VfB Stuttgart)
  • Stefan Ilsanker (Eintracht Frankfurt)
  • Stefan Lainer (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
  • Valentino Lazaro (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
  • Xaver Schlager (Wolfsburg)

For Bayern fans, the good news is that Alaba will be getting some extra rest. The only way for an Austria fan to find a silver lining in this cloud is to look forward to seeing a number of up-and-comers take the field for a competitive national match, including perhaps the debut senior cap for Rapid wunderkind and Bayern transfer target Yusuf Demir.