Football Australia today confirmed that Socceroos Head Coach Graham Arnold is currently in isolation in Melbourne after returning a positive COVID-19 result.
In accordance with both Government and team protocols, Arnold – who is fully vaccinated, received a booster ten days ago, and is asymptomatic – immediately isolated from Socceroos staff after returning the result upon his arrival into Melbourne late last week.
Socceroos staff already in Melbourne have also been isolating over the past two days and have since undertaken three rounds of PCR testing.
With the playing squad arriving in Melbourne over the coming days, and having returned multiple negative tests, Socceroos technical, medical, and operations staff have now resumed normal team activities, while following Football Australia’s COVID-19 protocols for National Teams.
With Arnold currently unable to exit isolation, former Manchester United Assistant Coach, Rene Meulensteen, together with Socceroos great, Tony Vidmar, will coach the side until Arnold is cleared to return with the team.
Meulensteen – a UEFA Champions League winner and four-time Premier League Champion alongside Sir Alex Ferguson – has been Arnold’s Assistant since mid-2018, while Vidmar, capped 76 times with the Socceroos between 1991 and 2006, has been a member of the team’s technical staff since mid-2019.
Football Australia Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, said: “Despite this unfortunate setback, Graham is in great spirits and is committed to remaining active and digitally connected with all team activities, including team meetings and training sessions.”
“Graham and the Socceroos staff have sacrificed a lot over the past year to guide the team on a qualification campaign in the middle of a pandemic, so it is extremely unfortunate that on the eve of this important home qualifying match Graham has returned his first positive COVID result.”
“However, we are pleased that our thorough protocols picked up this result early so that the risk of infection to players and staff leading into match week was controlled.”
Arnold said that he has full faith in the players selected, as well as his staff, to run the camp this week.
My staff and I have always planned that there could be a day that I might not be able to come to a match, so I believe with great planning and people in place, everything will run smoothly this week.
“I am feeling great and have no symptoms, and while I am disappointed that I won’t be with the players and staff physically this week, I believe that the standards, processes, and culture that we have instilled over the past three years of this journey will remain high and in place.
“Throughout COVID it has been important in many areas of life, including sport, to have contingency plans in place for challenges that may arise. With exceptional technical, medical, and operational staff with the Socceroos, little will change this week as we head into the Vietnam fixture. The most important thing is that the players are happy and healthy and ready to perform.
“I will be connecting with the players and staff daily via technology and I look forward to re-joining the team as soon as I am cleared.”
Arnold will be permitted to leave isolation on January 27, however his return to in-person national team coaching duties remains subject to him clearing additional medical protocols.