In China, officials struggling to contain the spread of the Coruna virus have postponed the start of the football season for several months, and at least one first-class squad in the Middle East has been rid of for weeks, unable to return from a pre-season training camp.
In South Korea, fans who attended matches earlier this month were screened for fever before being allowed into stadiums, and masks were everywhere in the stands in Japan recently – until Tuesday, when officials announced that there would be no match in The league until at least mid-March. .
But the effects of the Coruna virus on the FIFA World Calendar crossed the border as well. The AFC announced three weeks ago that matches in the largest club tournament involving Chinese teams will not be played for several months, and Vietnam has banned hosting of sporting events of any kind this month, forcing more games to be rescheduled.
Now the turmoil has spread to Europe.
In Italy, where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is approaching 300, on Tuesday, at least one match – the second leg of a knockout match on Thursday between Internacional from Milan and Ludogorets of Bulgaria in the European League – will continue to restrict public gatherings in the Lombardy region North.
The decision is on Tuesday To play the game He came without a spectator after the Italian authorities postponed four league matches last weekend.
Inter Milan, a major Italian league contender, said the decision was the result of several days of talks with Lombardy health officials and the European Football Association, the European Football Association, on how to organize the game, which cannot be canceled due to the lack of alternative dates .
The match against Ludogorets is believed to be the first time that a European soccer match has been played behind closed doors due to a health crisis. These conditions are usually imposed on teams as a punishment for fan violence or racist episodes.
Inter, which is Owned by a Chinese company, Steps have already been taken to reduce the risks to employees of the virus. Non-essential staff were asked to work from home, and the club bought stock of face masks and hand sanitizers for the team headquarters.
Decision to Go ahead with the game on Thursday The San Siro Cavern Stadium in Milan was confirmed on Tuesday. Internazionale, who has a bigger match on Sunday, when he is due to visit first place Juventus, was one of the four Italian clubs that postponed a League match last weekend.
Other European countries are now considering similar possibilities. On Tuesday, French club Olympique Lyon said in a statement that it was “I took note“The decision of the French authorities to allow their match against Juventus in the Champions League” in its initial form “on Wednesday evening. Up to 3000 fans of Juventus, a team based in Turin, northern Italy, are expected to participate in the game.
When asked about the match, Oliver Ferrand, the French health minister, told RTL radio that the authorities were vigilant but there were currently “no scientific or medical arguments” justifying the cancellation of major events in France.
“Should we stop Fashion Week?” Ferran said. “Should we stop the games? Should we close the universities? The answer is no.”
He added: “We do not close the borders because we do not know how, but because it does not make sense at this stage.”
Health officials and governments in Asia, where sporting tables have been affected more than others since the virus first began spreading, are facing a very different reality.
When Afshin Ghotbe, the Iranian-American coach for the Chinese team Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, was thrown into the air by soccer players in early November after he reached the Chinese Premier League, he had no abdication after about four months, he still His team is waiting for the start of the new season.
Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, with a population of 11 million, was to be launched southwest of Beijing from its new campaign last weekend. But instead of facing top Chinese clubs like Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG in front of 40,000 fans, the Ghotbi team plays games for athletes on empty pitches in Abu Dhabi, its base for five weeks and counting.
Team officials have said they do not expect to play competitive football until at least May or until they are allowed to return to China before mid-March.
“It is a challenge for the players,” Guti said. “They are far from their families and themselves feel very powerless.”
Guti, the former coach of the Iranian national team, has experience in world events that disrupt sports tables. He was in charge of Japanese Shimizu S-Pulse Club in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami postponed the Japanese League season by six weeks.
“At that time, we also tried to use the football team as a source of inspiration and hope,” said Guti. “We are trying to do the same now through banners in the stadiums we play and through social media, although it is different because we are outside China.”
To keep his players physically and mentally sharp, he and his coaches created a point system for intrateam activities, among other things distracting. “Even changing the hotel can make a difference,” he said.
It now faces similar challenges across East Asia. South Korea, with nearly 1,000 confirmed cases of the Corona virus, on Tuesday, has postponed the start of its domestic season indefinitely on Monday. The next day, the Japanese JJ League announced a three-week delay.
Individual qualification matches for the 2022 World Cup and 2020 Olympics were moved; in one extreme example, the Chinese women’s soccer team He was quarantined inside an Australian hotel, and forced to play sports and train in the aisles, before being allowed to play a series of qualifying Olympic games.
However, the AFC Champions League group stage stage, with 32 teams spread over eight time zones, is causing the biggest headache.
After an emergency meeting in Kuala Lumpur on February 4, A.F.C. They decided to reschedule the first three group games of Chinese expats in the competition: Guangzhou Evergrande and two teams from Shanghai. This means that they will have to play all six games in the group stage from April 7 to May 27. The second round in East Asia – the tournament is divided into two geographical regions until the final – is scheduled to begin on June 16.
However, with Japan and South Korea suspending their leagues and registering 12 deaths in Iran, it may be difficult for the Champions League to continue as planned.
Nevertheless, the implications of the spread of the virus are a concern worldwide, even in places where the virus has not yet spread. In a phone call on Tuesday with Manchester United senior executives, the giant English team with partners, lovers, and financial interests in the lucrative Asian market, an American analyst asked whether the virus would have any impact on the club’s $ 1 billion minimum.
Ed Woodward, Manchester United’s executive vice president, responded: “It is a very volatile situation, and we are monitoring it closely.”
Tariq Banga wrote from London and John Darden from Seoul, South Korea. Aurelien Breeden contributed to reporting from Paris.