Michael Sollbauer believes that Austrian football would not restart if the number of cases there were as high as in the UK, while he has decided not to bring his young family back to Barnsley.
The Austrian centre-back, who turned 30 last month, is torn between his desire to play football and concern at the idea of doing so while the infection rate is much higher here than in his home country. There were ten positive tests for Covid-19 among Championship players last weekend, and nine in midweek, with the league due to restart on June 20.
He told the Chronicle: “Honestly, if the same situation in the UK was happening in Austria, they wouldn’t speak about coming back to football. Of course not. When I was in Austria, we read a lot about the situation here because I had to decide what to do. I don’t know if it’s right that we come back as soon as possible. I want to return but only if it is safe. I heard about ten new cases at the weekend.
“I know it is only ten but it is ten too many. Any case can be very hard and the person can be fighting for their life. Hopefully there will be no more cases and we can start in two weeks. If we had one case in my team, or if it was me, I wouldn’t know what to do so I can understand why some players say ‘no, it is too much risk’ – that is their human right. Ten new cases is too much but, if they are lower, then it is OK that we return.”
Sollbauer spent most of lockdown back in his native Austria, where he returned with his wife and baby son who had initially moved to Barnsley with him. He said: “If my little boy was here, I might have another opinion about playing. My family are still in Austria because, for me, it is not healthy enough for them to come back. I don’t want to risk their lives. It is not easy to be here alone but, for my family, it is much better. In Austria, everything is open and the cases are really, really low. It’s not the best solution but I am a football player for Barnsley and I have made this decision.”
Sollbauer has impressed since reuniting in January with his former Wolfsberger head coach Gerhard Struber. He made his debut in the FA Cup loss at Portsmouth and has since started the Reds’ last eight Championship matches. His contract is due to run until the summer of 2022. The Reds are seven points from safety with nine games left. He told the Chronicle: “It is not my plan to play in League One. I don’t know what will happen if there is relegation, and I don’t want to talk about relegation, but it is my plan to stay here in Barnsley because I have a contract. But my biggest goal is to stay in the Championship.
“We will play nine finals and, after this long break, we have a great chance against teams in the middle of the table. We will fight for every ball and every point and I am convinced we will play a high level of football. We have to be ready from the first moment, we have to be fit and, from what I have seen so far, the spirit is very good. We have to push each other to make sure that we are ready and to keep a good atmosphere in the games with no fans. That is a little bit my job and some other leaders.” Sollbauer was glad to be back in full contact training from Wednesday."
He said: “It was a really good feeling and hopefully we can do this for next two weeks. After this long break, we need to work on many things, like set pieces, and for our style of play we need a lot of contact training.”
The defender is worried that the current schedule of nine matches in a month will mean players pick up injuries. He said: “It is a little bit dangerous for all of our muscles because we have had nearly two months without football. We can stay fit with running but it’s not the same. It will be a really, really hard schedule with two games a week.”
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Sollbauer returns alone and says: ‘ten cases is too many’
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