With the World Health Organisation declaring COVID-19 or Coronavirus a pandemic, normal life including sport is interrupted. With its first outbreak in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, it is rapidly spreading to the rest of the world even with China imposing a lockdown on the city.
Every country is fighting the spread of coronavirus including parts of Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Most nations have put travel restrictions to and from the affected regions. All of these developments are affecting football.
How the world football is affected amidst the COVID-19 scare, let’s find out.
How has the coronavirus (Covid-19) affected football matches?
The outbreak of coronavirus has had a serious impact on football as several soccer events are scheduled to be hosted in places where the spread of the virus is most.
The coronavirus outbreak in the country has resulted in Italy’s Serie A games to be postponed. As the south European country is struggling with the serious outbreak all the Serie A soccer matches have been indefinitely suspended and the Coppa Italia final has been moved to the end of May. Italy tried to host certain fixtures behind closed doors with no fans.
However, given the scale of coronavirus outbreak in the country and most Euro 2020 participating countries are trying to contain the spread, the concern over the viability of the UEFA European Championship to help in June are arising. UEFA is a statement has said that the situation is “under constant scrutiny” and they will be following the orders of the host countries affected.
Odian Ighalo who was signed by the English club Manchester United was forced to spend some time away from the rest of squad since he was loaned from the Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. Several Premier League clubs in England have banned handshakes at training complexes as a measure to avert the risk of coronavirus.
At the beginning of March, soccer games across Switzerland were postponed. The La Liga side Valencia have cancelled all events that will require players to interact outside of their immediate connections as a measure to prevent the risk of infection spreading to the players. For the Championship match between Valencia and Atlanta, it was decided to host the game behind closed doors. On the other hand, the Ligue 1 team Saint-Etienne has cancelled its weekly open training sessions. Not only this game, but several fixtures of the Champions Leagues were played behind the closed doors due to spread of coronavirus, this included matches between PSG and Dortmund and Roma and Sevilla. While some of the matches were cancelled like the Europa League match between Basel and Frankfurt.
In an attempt to contain the virus, it is decided that Ligue 1 matches will be either played behind closed doors or the fan numbers will be restricted to 1000.
China is the epicentre of the COVID-19 which is why football in Asia is severely affected. The Chinese Super Cup that was originally scheduled on February 5 was indefinitely postponed. The AFC is also postponing the group stage matches indefinitely, that has affected the AFC Championship league. The matches involving the China PR clubs have been rescheduled for April and May 2020. The East Zone Round matched have been postponed for June 16 and 17 and the return led is to be played on June 23 and 24.
Chinese Football Association in consultation with the state authorities has postponed the 2020 Chinese Super League indefinitely. Earlier the League was due to start from February 22. The ripple effect of coronavirus scare has also put on hold Japan’s J-League, Vietnam’s V. League, the Thai league and Korea’s K-League.
Chinese football has the worst effect due to coronavirus spread but other Asian nations are also under the impact as the threat can lead to the exodus of the star foreign players from the some of these countries’ teams.
Women’s football is equally affected. Qualifiers for the Women Football for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Thailand, Australia and Taipei were moved away from China completely to Sydney in February. Previously, the teams were moved to Nanjing from Wuhan but due to safety concerns were moved out of the nation. According to FFA chairman Chris Nikou, “The safety of all players, officials and fans are of paramount importance to Football Federation Australia and the Asian Football Confederation. And we are confident we will host a successful tournament here in Sydney.”
For the Chinese women’s squad, no player based in Wuhan was picked and those travelling were given a clean chit only after testing negative for the COVID-19. Also, the China team was under quarantine in a Brisbane hotel until February 5 as part of self-isolation.
The AFC Futsal Championship which was due to be hosted in Turkmenistan from February 26 to March 8 was also postponed by the body due to concerns regarding the outbreak.
In the United Arab Emirates, the football authorities have prohibited supporters from attending any football games until further notice by the authorities is issued.
In an effort to minimize the risk of the virus spread, in Morocco authorities have decided to host all the games behind closed doors.
It’s not just football
COVID-19 has not just disrupted football fixtures but sports such as golf, cycling, Formula One, tennis, boxing, basketball and many more have been affected.
The Chinese Basketball Association has to postpone the CBA League games that were scheduled to be played on February 1.
PGA Tour, Women’s LPGA Tour and the European Tour have to either postpone or cancel planned events.
The Olympic boxing qualifiers that were due to take place in Wuhan were postponed by the International Olympic Committee (ICC).
Formula 1’s governing body has postponed the Chinese Grand Prix to be held in April citing the safety concerns of the drivers and fans.
Amidst of all the cancellations and postponements, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics organizers made a surprising comment, that they are not planning to cancel any major sporting event. The Tokyo Olympics is due to start from July 24. In worlds of Games chief Toshiro Muto, “I want to again state clearly that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games has not been considered.”
Future is still uncertain
With cases of coronavirus spreading outside China and affects citizens in the UK, the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and Ireland, the biggest blow will be to the UEFA Euro 2020 which is due to be held across Europe in June and July.