Joshua Kimmich will be under the spotlight for Bayern Munich on Wednesday against opponents Moenchengladbach amid a heated debate in Germany since the soccer player revealed that he chose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The 26-year-old plays for Bayern in a German Cup match in the second round, but off the field his decision not to be vaccinated even drew comments from the government in Berlin. Kimmich revealed on Saturday that he has decided to be vaccinated, despite the fact that he founded the ‘We Kick Corona’ charity last year.
“It’s not that I’m a coronavirus denier or an opponent of vaccination,” says Kimmich, who based his decision on ‘personal concerns’.
The footballer’s position was commented on by Angela Merkel, caretaker chancellor’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, who hopes the footballer will inform himself and “sink all available information about the vaccines approved in the EU”.
Siebert encouraged Kimmich to be vaccinated because the Bayern star “is someone millions are looked up to” as a role model.
Kimmich appears to be in the minority among Germany’s top footballers.
Christian Seifert, managing director of the German Football League (DFL), said about 94 percent of Bundesliga players had been vaccinated.
Of Germany’s 83 million population, about 66 percent have been completely vaccinated, but Europe’s largest economy is currently in the fourth wave with 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus reported on Tuesday.
Since testing positive for Covid-19 last week, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann has given training and match-day instructions from home where he is in quarantine.
Kimmich says he may be vaccinated in the future and teammate Thomas Mueller hopes it will be sooner rather than later.
“As a friend, it’s an absolutely acceptable decision,” Mueller said.
“As a teammate, and if you also look at what might be better for everyone … my opinion may be that the vaccination will be better.”
Bayern president Herbert Hainer said on Monday he would be happy if Kimmich “continues to be vaccinated, but there is no compulsory vaccination. One must respect the decision.”
Kimmich has received a lot of criticism from medical experts.
“Joshua Kimmich is certainly a proven expert in matters of football, but not an expert in matters of vaccination and vaccines,” Thomas Mertens, chairman of Germany’s Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), told German media.
“This is Kimmich’s personal decision and it should have stayed that way.”
There is also some support.
In a statement, Carsten Ramelow, vice-president of the football union VDV, said it should be “accepted if individual players have concerns about side effects of the vaccination and therefore hold a different opinion.”
The chairman of the German Ethics Council also stressed the importance of respecting Kimmich’s “private decision”.
However, council chairwoman Alena Buyx told Sky “I think it’s a shame. It would be great if he would have used his platform to get better advice to be a role model.”
Buyx is concerned that skeptics may use their statements to “question vaccinations”.