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Gareth Southgate's plans for the World Cup in Qatar next year could need a major overhaul with five of his squad refusing to have the Covid 19 vaccine.
England are very close to qualifying for the World Cup next winter, leading their qualifying group by four points with just four games to play.
Wins over Andorra and Hungary in the upcoming international break will leave them with just games against Albania and San Marino to come through.
Southgate is clearly already planning for the tournament in 13 months time but he may have to change his thinking, with certain players set to be forced to miss out due to vaccinations.
Qatar are expected to require vaccine passports for players and fans to enter the country and, according to the Sun, five of the Three Lions' squad are holding out, including three players who were integral to the Euro 2020 semi final run.
'If you haven't had your vaccine yet, go and get it done — for you younger ones especially.'— NHS (@NHSuk) July 24, 2021
Thanks to @England's Gareth Southgate for sharing an important message about the #NHSCOVIDVaccine. ⚽️
Find out how to book yours ➡️ https://t.co/rIm16Cyr2Y pic.twitter.com/qYjKK6tyP4
The report claims that the players who are refusing the vaccine have given "nonsense" reasons for not taking it, whilst some have been put under pressure by wives and girlfriends not to have it.
Amongst the other reasons are a player claiming to be 'too young and fit' to be affected by Covid, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.
Another has bought into the conspiracy theory that the government are trying to keep tabs on the public through the vaccine.
"Dressing rooms and Whatsapp groups are awash with anti-vax conspiracy theories," a source told the newspaper.
"Many senior players have been duped by online arguments and myths against the vaccine.
"And they’re refusing to change course. If Qatar press ahead with plans to demand Covid vaccine passports from fans and players, it’s going to come to a head."
The five unjabbed players are okay to travel to Andorra as part of the 'bubble' this week, and can train and play through quarantine, but won't be allowed to travel to Qatar under the Middle East country's rules.
Southgate was recently part of a campaign to urge more people to get the defence against the virus, saying, "There’s no doubt the vaccination programme is our best route out of this problem," in a video.
One club doctor brought further light to the problem, telling the Sun, "We’ve got senior players, intelligent men, coming out with all sorts of nonsense. One told me he didn’t need the vaccine because he could boost his immunity by taking vitamins.
"Some of the stuff they’re reading — and believing — on the internet is incredible. Players are saying it will make them infertile, that it's part of a plot involving Bill Gates, that the pandemic is just propaganda."
Maybe they're not such intelligent men, especially if they sacrifice their chance of getting to a World Cup next year.
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