The outbreak has had far-reaching consequences in different parts of the world.
This epidemic that is believed to have initially stemmed out from Wuhan in China has now spread to 108 countries according to this latest report from Al Jazeera. Moreover, the Ministry of Health in India confirmed their first case of Coronavirus with the victim hailing from the nation’s capital, Delhi.
The COVID-19 virus presents symptoms like unknown incubation period, pneumonia, kidney failure and difficult breathing amongst others. The death toll has now crossed the 4,000 figure mark throughout the world. Hence, it is also essential to overview the impact that it has had and could possibly have in the footballing world in general too.
The multi-million dollar up and rising CSL has become a lucrative hub for a particular sect of footballers from Europe. The sheer money offered to individuals in this league is outrageous and managed to put China in the global stage as far as transfer markets were concerned. However, the competition’s new season that was supposed to commence from the 22nd of February has now been indefinitely postponed.
A large part of the country has been in a lockdown with several travel restrictions imposed upon by other nations with a view to limit the spread of the epidemic. Accordingly, COVID-19 along with the new wage constraints that have been regulated by the country’s football association means that the league saw its total spending in the winter transfer window decline to merely €28m.
This is the lowest that the Chinese Super League has cumulatively spent in a particular window ever since 2011. The country’s future in the sport is currently doomed with no concrete signs of revival in the near future. In the past week or so, the cases of new infections have declined steeply. Yet, for this to translate into uninterrupted footballing action would arguably take a considerable period of time.
Italy & England
As of March 11, the toll of confirmed cases in Italy is 10,149. 631 people have died to the disease as the country reported a drastic increase in the number of victims. Numerous cities and towns in the northern region of the country are in a clampdown whereas the Serie A is taking efforts to ensure that the country’s top-tier league does not suffer majorly due to this issue.
Sporting activities in affected regions have been suspended until the 8th of March whereas four Serie A matches have been called off for the upcoming weekend, which includes the likes of Juventus vs Bologna and Atalanta vs Lazio.
Inter Milan’s CEO Giuseppe Marotta has said that the ongoing season ran a risk of being unable to conclude if fixtures are suspended on a regular basis. The Juventus Under-23 side recently faced Serie C team Pianesse. Three players from Pianesse have now tested positive for coronavirus and accordingly, the youth team of the Old Lady has now been rushed into quarantine.
Suddenly, Cristiano Ronaldo’s swift visit to Spain for El Classico makes more sense, doesn’t it?
According to the latest happenings, football in Serie A is supposed to be played behind closed doors until April 3rd, 2020. However, Italy’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora called this move ‘irresponsible’ as he had called for football to be suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, around 15 provinces in Italy are under a lockdown with the movement of 60 million residents of the country being restricted.
Elsewhere, FIFA President Gianni Infantino also hinted that the already scheduled international matches in the upcoming few weeks could be postponed in the wake of this virus breakout. Infantino said, “People’s health is much more important than any game. I wouldn’t exclude anything at this moment. That’s why we have to look at the situation and hope that it will decrease rather than increase. At the moment, it looks like it is still increasing. If games have to be postponed or played without spectators until it is over, then we have to go through that.”
Now, the upcoming midweek Premier League fixture between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed as several Arsenal players and staff members are believed to have come in contact with Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis. On the 10th of March, Marinakis confirmed that he tested positive for coronavirus and hence those involved individuals from Arsenal would now undergo a 14-day long self-isolation period. This is the first severe jolt that the Premier League has faced due to the mass spread of this virus.
Additionally, star footballer Son Heung-Min is going to follow governmental advice and will self-isolate himself upon his return from Seoul where he has gone for a surgery of his broken arm. It will be done as a precautionary measure but the extent of time to which Son will continue to remain indoors remains to be seen.
Moreover, as absurd as it may sound, Newcastle United’s manager Steve Bruce has ensured that his players stop the handshake ritual at the start of every training session, upon the advice of one of the doctors whom the club referred to.
Iran suspended all sports events except football and futsal in the country for a period of 10 days starting from the 2nd of March. Meanwhile, the Iranian Football League Organization stepped in to announce that all matches of these two sports would be played without spectators.
In a terrible state of affairs, Elham Sheikhi who was a 22-year-old member of the Iranian women’s national futsal team succumbed to Coronavirus. She incidentally also hailed from Qom, which has been mentioned as the place through which this outbreak has emerged from.
The J-League have postponed all scheduled matches until March 15, as they look to find a way and battle the increasing impact of the virus on the country. The board’s chairman Mitsuru Murai described the situation as somewhat of a national crisis and apologized to the fans that looked forward to the football games.
More importantly, Japan has prepared brilliantly for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games and how that mega world-event is affected by the current emergency could be a huge cause of concern for the Asian country. With that regard, their present precautionary measures are justified as they arguably have bigger problems to tackle if the fear looming around coronavirus continues as the year progresses.
What is the Asian Football Confederation up to?
Amidst the vast break of coronavirus in many Asian countries, the Asian Football Confederation jumped into action to arrange a series of emergency meetings with their member associations and leagues from all part of the continent.
The AFC’s general secretary Dato Windsor John said, “These are unprecedented and challenging times, but the AFC is working tirelessly to monitor the situation, including the various travel restrictions, while being in constant contact with our Member Associations, Leagues and Clubs.”
“We are grateful for the support we have received from all our stakeholders, including our commercial and broadcast partners and agencies, as we try to protect the safety and well-being of all our players, officials and spectators while also ensuring the integrity of the competitions.”
The group stage matches of the AFC Champions League could be extended with the league stage matches being held as late as in July bring the current scenario into consideration. After the meeting in Kuala Lampur, the AFC has probably agreed to amend the scheduling of the competition and would declare the new list of the group stage fixtures by March 16.