Celtic paid for a misjudged mid-season training trip to Dubai as, without the 13 first-team players forced into self-isolation, they were detained 1-1 by Hibernian on Monday, another heavy blow for their Scottish Premiership title hopes.
The Hoops are 21 points behind the runaway leaders Rangers atop the Scottish Premiership, albeit with three games in hand.
Two more lost points ended a damaging day for the Glasgow giants as their decision to travel to Dubai drew criticism from Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The 13 players along with manager Neil Lennon and a number of coaching staff were forced into solitary confinement after coming into close contact during the trip with defender Christopher Jullien, who tested positive for coronavirus after the club’s return to Glasgow on Saturday.
Although the rest of the squad tested negative, the rest had spent time with the French defender on flights and the squad’s coaches.
“While all other members of the team and the backroom team tested negative, we have been advised by authorities that, having been considered ‘close contacts’, Celtic manager Neil Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players will need to self-isolate on a precautionary basis as required by current regulations, ”Celtic said in a statement.
Scotland is under a nationwide lockdown and only essential travel is allowed.
Despite the restrictions, elite sports teams are allowed to travel for matches and training.
However, Sturgeon wondered if this privilege had been abused.
“I have my doubts how the club themselves have described it, if Celtic’s trip to Dubai was really essential,” Sturgeon said during his daily coronavirus briefing.
“I have doubts based on some of the images I have seen whether the compliance with the bubble rules was strict enough. ”
The Hibs’ request for Celtic players to go through an additional round of testing before Monday’s game has been rejected by league officials and the Glasgow giants.
In a statement, the Edinburgh club said they were threatened with “serious consequences” if they did not meet the schedule.
“I thought it would give our players and staff some peace of mind to step into the environment tonight,” said Hibs manager Jack Ross.
“It was something we asked for and something that was rejected by the opponents and the league. There was no option to come here or not. ”
Celtic argued that they applied rigorous protocols to their trip, which they insisted for “performance reasons”.
However, their slim chances of beating the Rangers for a 10th consecutive league title appear to be gone after Kevin Nisbet’s equalizer clawed back a point for Hibs.
The absences forced Celtic to make six changes from the side which lost 1-0 in the Old Firm derby on January 2.
However, one of their regular starters, David Turnbull, appeared to have taken the home side’s victory with a nice free kick that ended up in the top corner nine minutes from time.
Defending set pieces has been Celtic’s Achilles heel all season and even with a very changed side it was their loss again when Nisbet swept away a stray ball after a free kick into the box failed. has not been processed.
Earlier on Monday, all professional Scottish football below the first two levels was suspended due to spike in Covid-19 infection rates.
The Scottish Football Association board said the suspension of the lower leagues was agreed to after a meeting between the Scottish Federation and the Minister for Sport.
Scottish FA President Rod Petrie said: “While national sport has enjoyed the privilege of an elite sports exemption, the risk of mass transport of untested players, largely part-time, cannot be sustained as cases continue to increase and hospital availability. beds are becoming increasingly scarce. ”
The suspension will last until January 31 and will be regularly reviewed. The Scottish Cup will also be suspended.
© 2021 AFP