Salomon Kalou has been punished by Hertha Berlin after live broadcasting himself and his fellow squad members taking coronavirus tests and shaking hands before waving his paycheck around in front of a shocked teammate.
Kalou stunned fans live on Facebook by filming a behind-the-scenes tour at the Bundesliga club that quickly took a series of remarkable turns, as he flouted the strict social distancing guidelines that healthcare experts have urged players to take during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After shaking hands with fitness coach Henrik Cuchno and teammates Per Skjelbred, Rune Jarstein, Petar Pekarik and Vedad Ibisevic at their training ground, Kalou clowned around and filmed the squad sitting next to each other in a clear breach of the rules that are crucial to stopping the spread of the highly infectious disease.
A doctor could be heard unsuccessfully pleading with Kalou to “please delete the video” as he watched defender Jordan Torunarigha take a swab test for the virus in a setting almost completely devoid of the recommended protective equipment.
The former Chelsea star insisted he was joking during the thoughtless broadcast but has now been suspended by Hertha, who issued a stern statement outlining their anger at a time when Bundesliga chiefs are under pressure to prove that clubs are observing stringent safety measures during the ongoing public debate over the potential return of football.
In a groveling apology, Ivory Coast veteran Kalou said he had been eager to portray his happiness at all of the players testing negative for the virus and regretted filming individuals without their knowledge.
“I am sorry if I gave the impression that I am not taking the coronavirus seriously,” he said.
“The opposite is the case because I am especially worried about the people in Africa, where the medical care is nowhere near as good as in Germany.”
Kalou has further enraged his employers by highlighting a paycheck problem that led to each player having more money deducted from their salaries than they had agreed as part of a financial relief package during the health crisis.
While Kalou bragged that “we get paid even though we don’t train or play”, club captain Ibisevic noticed a discrepancy that the club later put down to an accounting error.
“You are crazy, bro”, a confused Ibisevic could be seen telling Kalou, threatening to stop speaking to club performance manager Arne Friedrich.
“I don’t understand why they are doing this. I’m going to ask them, ‘are you f*cking with us?’”
Hertha emphasized that they had divided the squad into distinct groups with separate training areas and would make distance and hygiene rules “even more intensive” following the “failure of a single player”.
“Due to the negative test results, Salomon Kalou was tempted to greet his teammates in his cabin with a handshake, contrary to the clear announcements by the hygiene officer,” they pointed out.
“[He] violated fundamental team internal rules and showed behavior that is neither appropriate to the situation nor corresponds to the rules of conduct of the club.”
The club confirmed that Kalou would be suspended from training and matches immediately and said that the pay error had been corrected, with “no critical voices” being raised when pay cuts were originally agreed.
General manager Michael Preetz, who is one of the figures hoping that clubs will be allowed to resume fixtures this month, said Kalou had caused “a great deal of damage” to the club and “the current social discussion about the resumption of play and the role of professional football.”
“It gives the impression that individual players do not take the virus seriously,” he added. “The extent of the misconduct requires action.”
Some clubs have warned that they could face financial ruin should professional football in Germany not return imminently for the first time since it was suspended on March 13.