French authorities allow foreign players to forgo quarantine

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French Cup - Round of 16 - Paris St Germain v Lille

PARIS (Reuters) - The French sports ministry on Saturday opened the door for foreign players in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 to join their national teams for World Cup qualifiers outside the European Union, allowing them to forgo a quarantine upon their return.

"The Ministry of Sports confirms that international players returning from official competitions outside the EU with their national team, whether French or foreign, are exempt from the seven-day waiting period as long as they comply with a strict sanitary and medical protocol (bubble + daily PCR test on their return to their club)," the Sports ministry said on Saturday.

"They will therefore be able to train and play without the application of a seven-day delay."

Earlier this week, the French league said that Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs "would not make available for selection the foreign players summoned for matches outside the EU / EEA zone during the next international period in March."

Paris St Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino was annoyed that Saturday's news came so late.

"It's a big surprise to hear that on Saturday. These situations could be anticipated," he said.

"For us and the other clubs, it's not the best way or the best timing."

FIFA said last month that clubs were not expected to release players if there is a "mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days upon arrival" in the country where the club is located or the country where the match is taking place.

Earlier on Saturday, Poland's Prime Minister called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to ask that two national team players be exempt from quarantine rules when re-entering Germany after a soccer World Cup qualifier against England.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson)