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China coronavirus: How football matches & sport events are affected by outbreak

As Chinese authorities and the World Health Organisation attempt to reduce the spread of the virus, normal life – including sport – is on hold

An outbreak of a deadly coronavirus in the city of Wuhan in late 2019 has placed large parts of China on lockdown and the rest of the world on high alert.

Despite taking measures in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, it has spread throughout China and into 24 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and parts of Europe.

Travel restrictions are in effect across China, particularly so in the region most affected, with Chinese officials advising people not to travel into or out of Wuhan. 

How has the coronavirus affected football matches?

The outbreak of the coronavirus has had a serious impact on a number of football events in China, with games being moved, postponed and even cancelled.

The Chinese Super Cup clash between Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua – originally scheduled to be played on February 5 – was postponed.

The AFC Champions League has also been affected, with the AFC notifying the four Chinese teams competing in the tournament – Beijing, Shanghai Shenhua, Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG – that they will play their first games away from home.

Matches involving clubs from China PR will be re-scheduled for April and May 2020, while the East Zone Round of 16 matches are to be postponed for June 16 and 17, with the return leg played on June 23 or 24.

The 2020 Chinese Super League season, which was due to get under way on February 22 has been postponed indefinitely, with a decision made by the Chinese Football Association in consultation with state authorities.

The uncertainty has, naturally, had an impact on normal life and for footballers in China it has prompted speculation that it could lead to an exodus of some of the country’s star foreign players.

Women’s football qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics involving Australia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei, which are due to be played at the beginning of February, have been moved away from China completely to Sydney. They had originally been moved from Wuhan to Nanjing, but safety concerns led to the change.

“The safety of all players, officials and fans is of paramount importance to Football Federation Australia and the Asian Football Confederation,” said FFA chairman Chris Nikou. “And we are confident we will host a successful tournament here in Sydney.”

No players based in Wuhan were selected in the China women’s squad, while those travelling were tested for the coronavirus and cleared with negative results. Nevertheless, the China team have been quarantined in a Brisbane hotel until February 5, in line with the advice that those travelling from Wuhan should self-isolate. 

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced that they would postpone the AFC Futsal Championship, which was due to take place in Turkmenistan between February 26 and March 8, due to worries regarding the outbreak.

They stated: “This move was taken because of concerns about the current Coronavirus situation and in order to ensure the safety and well-being of all participating teams and stakeholders.

“The AFC will continue to monitor the impact of the virus and new competition dates will be announced when the situation stabilises.”

Are other sporting events affected by coronavirus?

Chinese government officials have issued a notice that all sporting events scheduled to take place before April will be postponed indefinitely while they grapple with the issue.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) has confirmed that the CBA League games from February 1 on will be postponed. 

The International Olympic Committee (ICC) has cancelled Olympic boxing qualifiers that were due to take place in Wuhan.

April’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai has also been postponed, with Formula 1’s governing body expressing a desire to “ensure the health and safety” of drivers and fans.

Interestingly, the organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which is due to get under way on July 24, said that they were not considering the cancellation of the major sporting event.

Games chief Toshiro Muto said in mid-February: “I want to again state clearly that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games has not been considered.”

With concerns being raised regarding a number of events outside China, it is likely that UEFA will be forced to assess things ahead of Euro 2020, which will be held across Europe in June and July.

Cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain – all of which are host countries for the tournament – among others.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is the name for a group of viruses which includes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and the common cold.

A new type of coronavirus was identified to be the cause of a number of cases of pneumonia in China on December 31, 2019. This novel coronavirus has been named ‘COVID-19’.

By February 12, the WHO status report revealed that there had been over 45,000 confirmed cases worldwide and over 1,000 deaths (with just one occurring outside of China).

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

It is understood that the novel coronavirus causes pneumonia, with symptoms such as fever, coughs and difficulty breathing apparent.

In severe cases, the coronavirus can lead to hospitalisation or even death.

Chinese authorities have advised people not to travel to or from Wuhan and travel restrictions have been widened to include 10 cities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued advice to the general public in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which includes the following:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

Where is Wuhan?

Wuhan is the capital city of Hubei, a province in central China. It has a population of over 11 million people, making it the seventh most populous city in China.

The city straddles the famous Yangtze river and its football club, Wuhan Zall, competes in the Chinese Super League.

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