The 2020 J.League Cup final, due to be played this Saturday at Tokyo’s National Stadium, was officially postponed by the J.League on Wednesday after Kashiwa Reysol became the latest J.League club to be badly hit by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After Kashiwa had their J.League 1 Matchweek 26 away trip to Vegalta Sendai postponed due to a player, a team staff, and head coach Nelsinho Baptista being tested positive for COVID-19, the Chiba Prefecture-based club then ran PCR tests on their other players and staff members on Tuesday,with a grand total of 82 people being tested. The results were damning – eight team staffs and two players were tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total cases within Kashiwa to 13.
Kashiwa’s case is the second known COVID-19 cluster affecting a J.League club after Sagan Tosu back in August and with so many people being infected by the disease, the J.League took immediate action and postponed Saturday’s J.League Cup final until further notice.
“While more than 10 people have been infected, we still don’t know the route of infection,” spoke J.League chairman Mitsuru Murai in an online press conference held on Wednesday, as quoted from The Japan Times, “In order to protect the safety of the players we made the decision to postpone the match.”
With Kashiwa’s opponents FC Tokyo set to depart for Qatar later this month to continue their postponed 2020 AFC Champions League campaign, the matter of rescheduling this year’s J.League Cup final would become a major headache for all stakeholders involved. There’s also the small matter of finishing the remaining J.League 1 campaign for this year, with the final matchweek to be played on December 20th, and there’s also the 2020 Emperor’s Cup semifinals and final, due to be played on December 27th and January 1st respectively. With all these factors in mind, Murai alluded that the final might be held in 2021, as there are only a month and a few weeks left in 2020.
As a result of Kashiwa’s COVID-19 situation, their next J1 match – a home game against Oita Trinita on November 14th – will be postponed, with the next couple of games after that looking likely to be postponed too as Tosu had three of their J1 matches being postponed during their COVID-19 shutdown.
Promoted to this season’s J1 as champions of the 2019 J.League 2 season, Kashiwa have been doing decently in the league so far. With the prowess of Kenyan international Michael Olunga up top and with players such as Cristiano and Ataru Esaka pitching in as well, Nelsinho’s charges are currently 9th in the J1 table, only seven points away from the top five as they hovered around the upper-to-middle echelons of the league. Add this year’s J.League Cup final date into the mix and one can say that Kashiwa’s season so far – apart from the current COVID-19 crisis – was quite a decent, smooth sail.