Maddison says Leicester OK with COVID-compliant celebrations

Soccer Football - Premier League - Leicester City v Southampton - King Power Stadium, Leicester, Britain - January 16, 2021 Leicester City's James Maddison celebrates scoring their first goal Pool via REUTERS/Tim Keeton

(Reuters) - Leicester City midfielder James Maddison said players are willing to follow new guidelines on goal celebrations if it means games can continue, after gesturing handshakes and high-fives in Saturday's 2-0 Premier League win over Southampton.

The sight of players huddling after goals has drawn criticism in Britain, with the rest of the population asked to follow strict COVID-19 distancing rules during the pandemic.

Premier League chief Richard Masters had asked players to set the right example by not celebrating goals with the usual hugs. Maddison and fellow goal-scorer Harvey Barnes adhered to the rules on Saturday.

Elsewhere, West Ham United's Michail Antonio adopted a routine that looked like he was swimming backstroke across the London Stadium turf in their 1-0 win over Burnley.

"If things like that are what we need to keep football going, then so be it. We've been told to stop gatherings of people and I tried to make it light-hearted," Maddison told BT Sport.

"Footballers get a lot of stick, and it's nice to put a lighter note on it. I don't think you will find one person in the country who wants football to stop.

"I hope (England manager) Gareth Southgate had his mask on - it's nice to have him here."

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said it was important for players to celebrate in the right way, as it could influence people outside the game.

"Players in general want to do it for themselves... but they also want to help the mood of the nation," Rodgers said.

"I think when you score if you can (celebrate) safely and still make people laugh, then that's what is important in what is a tough time."

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)

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