Ajax celebrated the celebration of Dutch champions last weekend, but as the songs were sung and the party began, someone was missing. Goalkeeper Andre Onana, who played every minute of every game until Jan. 31, who has still played more minutes than the four players on the Ajax squad, his very own title, was not there. He would have liked to be, but he wasn’t sure he was allowed to, and so he stayed away, isolated, and alone, like three months ago. And those months that are still missing.
– Ajax holds the title of Eredivisie
– Neres leads Ajax to register the 20th crown of the Dutch Cup
– Onana banned for 12 months after doping violation
Onana, who turned 25 in early April, is likely to leave at the end of the season, Ajax have said. And with clubs from Germany and England interested, the Amsterdam outfit would like to move on. But that’s not why he was absent from the title celebrations by his side. The reason is that one morning last October he woke up with a headache and looked for an aspirin, which turned out not to be any aspirin, but the Furosemide that his pregnant wife had prescribed for him. The packages aren’t that different, nor are the pills, and so, says Onana, she took it wrong by mistake.
This is their version of events, and it is a version accepted by UEFA. They concluded that Onana had not tried to deceive; they also concluded that they should ban it anyway. They insist, it is the player’s duty to make sure that no banned substance enters their bodies. A diuretic, Furosemide is not a performance-enhancing drug, but it can be used as a masking agent and is on UEFA’s list of banned substances. A 12-month ban was imposed on him. If they had judged he deliberately cheated, four years could have passed.
Onana said he “respected” UEFA’s appeal body, but disagreed with its decision, which it described at the time as “excessive and disproportionate, as UEFA has acknowledged that it be an unintentional mistake “. Twelve months is the fifth part of his career so far; Ajax general manager Edwin van der Sar issued a statement calling it “a terrible setback for Andre himself and for us as a club”.
This is the second time that Onana has not played for a long time: having passed through the Samuel Eto’o Foundation in Cameroon, he was in Barcelona when he was a child when the club was punished for violating Article 19 of FIFA, which regulates the signature of players under 18 years of age. Like all the children of La Masia with him, Onana spent 18 months without playing a competitive match.
At least I could train after that; at least, then, they were all there together, although it did result in the rupture of a generation when the players left the club. This time, Onana is all alone. UEFA bans not only prevent players from playing; they prevent them from participating in any football-related activity. It is not allowed in Ajax; not their training camps, nor their equipment facilities. It doesn’t even matter if the team is there or not. And this may be the most significant element of all, which makes the ban effective for more than 12 months, expanding and deepening its impact, which is already “huge” not only in the career of a player, in the words of Vereniging Van Contractspelers (VVCS), the Dutch players’ union, but also the welfare of one player.
“The suspension itself is disproportionate, but the idea that the player can’t even train with the rest of the team during the suspension is completely incomprehensible,” the VVCS said. “This injustice, which has no added value and leads to unnecessary isolation of professional footballers, must also be urgently reversed.”
It’s hard not to agree. It’s hard to see any real justification for enforcing a rule that goes beyond actually playing the game (an argument says that otherwise a player who isn’t a regular starter actually goes unpunished) and it’s hard understand why it is so rarely questioned. Maybe this will help you. It is a perverse and almost cruel punishment. It is also very useless; it is also difficult to see what jurisdiction gives the authorities to impose limitations beyond the parties.
These are not just doping offenses; it’s all sorts of bans where it can often seem like players are subject to rules, the rest of the game doesn’t seem to feel the need to comply.
When Luis Suárez was banned after the 2014 World Cup for beating Italian Giorgio Chiellini, the Uruguayan striker was unable to take part in any “football-related” activities. The ban was not extended to make a transfer of 80 million euros from Liverpool to Barcelona (business is business, after all), but it did mean that it could not be presented, it could not be formed with the his teammates and couldn’t I don’t go to the stadium to watch them play. In theory, I couldn’t go to a children’s game either. Think about it for a minute – imagine you have a little son or daughter and they have a party on Saturday, only their father can’t go see.
Suárez worked alone, hidden. A secret surrounded his location. When Kieran Trippier was banned from breaking the rules on gambling, he was not only banned for 10 weeks, but was prevented from training with his teammates.
At least in theory it was. When FIFA momentarily suspended the sanction (it faced Sevilla FC again) and confirmed it again, Atletico Madrid interpreted its judgment as allowing Trippier to return to work if he did not play, against the wishes of the FA. They knew it wasn’t clear and they were throwing it away, so he joined the group quietly. There were no photos, no reports or words from the training camp until the ban actually ended, at which point the club admitted Yes, he has been here all this time.
Most will not take that risk, including Onana and Ajax. No matter how unfair they consider the ban, power is not in their hands. Suppose for a moment that Onana is guilty, that he did take Furosemide knowingly. Suppose he even did it to mask something else. Suppose all this, none of which even those who punished him believe, suppose he is completely guilty, there is still this question: why does the ban go beyond the playing field? What do you really gain?
The 12-month ban on any football-related activity is effectively longer than when it comes to playing. One could legitimately argue that those who break the rules should not be supported, cared for, but at a time when there is a greater awareness than ever of the mental well-being of players, is it really to deliberately isolate them?
Ajax players wore Onana’s shirt when they ran onto the pitch to face PSV Eindhoven in the cup after the ban was confirmed in early February. The club has talked about supporting her (Lassina Traore also wore Onana’s shirt during the title celebrations last weekend), but it’s only natural that a distance has been opened, that relationships should change, that a player ends up alone when forced to stay away.
There is also an appeal: Onana is taking her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). It’s part of the reason there’s so much determination to stick absolutely strictly to the ban and to make it visible, as well as to explain why there’s some kind of secrecy around something that should be natural: a footballer who does football stuff, a person who is part of a group to which he has contributed. Onana is not sure him he can not be part of the celebrations; However, she is afraid that she may be held against him.
(This CAS appeal may also affect your future: if the ban is shortened and made available to Ajax again, it is more likely to stay.
Meanwhile, like all players who are in situations like this, Onana makes his own plans, away from routine, from the team, which most footballers say is worth it. He trains with a goalkeeping coach who has been recommended to him by his agent. He could work at the clubhouse, but not with his teammates, or at times when there is someone else. So instead, he heads to a small Amsterdam fan club, invisible to everyone and everyone who refuses to admit where he is, the club remains silent. He is also silent. His diet has changed and the physical work is done in a home gym with a personal trainer, a lifelong friend he has worked with before, although he is coordinated with Ajax staff.
And so it goes, a certain absurdity to everything, as if it were a state secret, as if Onana were a “non-person”. Isolated works, waits and watches TV while his teammates also celebrate the title he won.