Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny has raised eyebrows during his defense of ‘infectious’ star Callum Robinson, who refuses to get vaccinated despite catching Covid twice.
Kenny made his comments at a press conference ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku tomorrow evening.
“What I can say about Calllum Robinson is that he’s such a popular member of the squad,” said Kenny as he responded to the criticism the player has earned from some quarters after revealing earlier this week that he had no plans to get jabbed.
“He’s a breath of fresh air, he always comes in with a smile on his face, he’s infectious, he brings laughter to the dressing room,” Kenny added.
Stephen Kenny defends Callum Robinson, saying he has been vilified for being honest, describes him as ‘a breath of fresh air, always comes in with a smile on his face, he’s infectious’ #rtesoccerpic.twitter.com/XF87rFs5K7
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) October 8, 2021
“People love him, he has great qualities as a man and a human being.
“He has attracted a lot of criticism because he just came into a press conference where a vast majority of players refuse to answer the question [about vaccines], but he was open and transparent.
“He has been vilified for it, but he’s a terrific person, and I think all the players would verify that and speak so well of him. He’s a popular member of the squad.”
West Bromwich Albion star Robinson has caused controversy in recent days by admitting that he hasn’t had his vaccine despite contracting Covid twice, which caused him to miss games for his country in November and August.
“I haven’t been vaccinated, no,” confirmed the 26-year-old Robinsonwhen asked, before adding: “That’s my choice, at this moment in time.”
“It’s obviously annoying that I’ve caught it twice but I haven’t been vaccinated,” Robinson continued.
“Further down the line, I could change my mind and want to do it. I just haven’t done it.
“I think it’s your personal choice and my choice, at this moment in time, [is] I haven’t been vaccinated.
“I wouldn’t force people to do it – it’s your choice and your body.”
While defending his star on Friday, it was Kenny’s choice of the word ‘infectious’ to describe Robinson which caught the attention of most people.
“Did he just call Callum ‘infectious’,” asked one fan, while another wrote: “I wouldn’t be telling his teammates he’s infectious, never mind the Irish media.”
“That’s either next level trolling or an absolutely deplorable choice of words!” another observer chimed in.
“‘Infectious’ … great choice of words,” read one reply, as elsewhere some pondered whether Kenny was trying to play the comedian.
I wouldn’t be telling his teammates he’s infectious, never mind the Irish media … 😏
— 𝒟ó𝓃𝒶𝓁 𝒹𝑒 𝒫𝒶𝑜𝓇 ☘️🇮🇪 (@ThePware) October 8, 2021
“Infectious” … great choice of words.
— Steven Hoy (@SteJHoy) October 8, 2021
That’s either next level trolling or an absolutely deplorable choice of words!
— Richard Finnegan (@thesaturdayman) October 8, 2021
He’s on all week.. try the Lasagne
— Alan Bailey (@AP_Bailey) October 8, 2021
Ireland certainly have serious matters to attend to in Baku as they take on Azerbaijan, aiming to improve on their current standing of fourth place in Group A and revive their remote hopes of reaching Qatar in 2022.
They have managed just two points from their five games under Kenny so far, and are far adrift of second-place Serbia, who have nine points, and leaders Portugal, who have 13.
If they were somehow to qualify, Ireland would make their fourth appearance overall at FIFA’s showpiece tournament, and their first since a memorable run to the last 16 in 2002 where they lost to Spain on penalties.
Covid vaccination is a contentious issue in football at present, including in both the English Premier League and the EFL Championship, where Robinson plies his trade.
The authorities are struggling to get big stars to front campaigns urging other professionals to get their jabs, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has likened players who haven’t done so yet to drink drivers.
Yet despite being pro-vaccine, Kenny hasn’t been as extreme in his views and vowed it will not affect his call-up process.
“Well, I think it would be quite a radical viewpoint to just say: ‘Right, whoever is not vaccinated is not being selected in the future’,” Kenny said earlier this week, while conceding that not everyone in his Ireland squad has received both vaccine doses.
🗣”It would be extremely radical.”Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny thinks it would be a step too far to select players who have not been vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/kzV1htEexP
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 6, 2021
“I’m not aware of anybody who has done this in any sport at the moment, so for me to just come and decide that would be extremely radical,” Kenny stressed.
“I was very happy to be [vaccinated] myself and encouraged staff and players. Of course it seems like the most sensible thing to do, and the safest with regard to our environment.
“There are a lot of myths and a lot of issues around virility that people are concerned about and other issues, you know, and I do think it is complex.
“I am not a medical expert but I do trust the experts and I do think it is better to be double-vaccinated,” he finished on the matter.