Football Tribe SEA Editor
The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has forced the Asian Football Confederation, with the approval of involved football federations, to delay and rearrange matches in both the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. All bar one group stage matches during the first three ACL matchdays involving Chinese clubs Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, Beijing Sinobo Guoan, Shanghai SIPG and Shanghai Greenland Shenhua were postponed, while Vietnamese clubs Ho Chi Minh City FC and Than Quang Ninh are forced to play their first two matches in the AFC Cup away from home.
Various countries in Asia have implemented restrictions on Chinese residents in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which meant the AFC’s initial plan of having the Chinese clubs play their away games first during the ACL’s first three matchdays was effectively snuffed out. Guangzhou, Beijing, and the Shanghai clubs are scheduled to play games in Australia, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea, however, the inability of the four teams to enter these countries due to the coronavirus restrictions has forced the AFC to call an emergency meeting involving the federations of the five countries as well as the football federation of China. The six federations and the AFC came to an agreement to push back all matches involving Chinese clubs in the first three matchdays of the ACL to April and May.
The only match not affected by this arrangement is Beijing’s away game at Singha Chiangrai United, as the capital side were undergoing a training camp in South Korea when these restrictions took effect, meaning that they may not have to be quarantined. The match will be played in its initial schedule, February 18th at the Singha Stadium in Chiangrai.
The AFC has stated that they will keep a close eye on the outbreak, and “continue to evaluate the outbreak’s impact closely.”
“We came together in difficult circumstances to find solutions to allow us to play football while ensuring we protect the safety and security of all players, officials, stakeholders, and fans,” said AFC secretary-general Windsor John.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak has forced the Vietnamese Football Federation (VFF) to postpone the opening matches of all league competitions underneath the federation which includes both the V.League 1 and V.League 2, as well as the opening stage of the Vietnamese National Cup and also the Vietnamese Super Cup, due to the decision made by the Vietnamese government to suspend all sporting activities. This meant that both Ho Chi Minh City and Than Quang Ninh are unable to play home matches in the AFC Cup until the suspension is lifted.
Ho Chi Minh City are scheduled to play their first AFC Cup match against Yangon United of Myanmar at the Thong Nhat Stadium on February 11th, however, the match will be now played at Yangon’s Thuwunna Stadium with the approval of the AFC, while Ho Chi Minh City’s second match against Hougang United, an away trip to Singapore, was unaffected. Likewise, Than Quang Ninh’s first match in the AFC Cup, an away trip to the Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium to face Bali United of Indonesia, was unaffected, however their second match against Ceres-Negros of the Philippines will be played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila instead of the Cam Pha Stadium in Cam Pha, Quang Ninh Province.