Chinese league schedule in shambles after COVID hits center on tropical island

BEIJING, Aug 8 (Reuters) – A series of Chinese Super League matches that were due to be played in the southern city of Haikou have been canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the tropical island and a third of the league’s teams currently playing stationed there are temporarily unable to leave the country, state media reported on Monday.

The decision by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) means six teams that are in Haikou after recent games — Chengdu Rongcheng, Jinmen Tigers, Shandong Taishan, Hebei, Cangzhou Lions and Guangzhou — will not be able to leave the city for the time being, Beijing Daily said.

Two matches between Guangzhou and Chengdu and between Cangzhou and Shandong involving these six teams, originally scheduled for later in the calendar, have been brought forward to August 12 and will continue to be played in Haikou.

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Games not involving these six teams will continue as scheduled, with other games being postponed.

Beijing Guoan, which is scheduled to play home games in Haikou, will not be affected at the moment as the next three games are away, the report said.

The league has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the majority of teams unable to play on their own grounds since the end of the 2019 season.

The decision further upsets the schedule of the league, which has promised to play the World Cup stage later this year by December 18 after taking a break earlier this summer to allow the Chinese national team to take part in the East Asia Cup in to accommodate Japan.

It’s also the latest blow to Chinese football after the country gave up the rights to next year’s Asian Cup final, and unfortunate as Haikou has been flagged as one of several neutral venues used by clubs this season .

The global health crisis and China’s push for a zero-COVID strategy, coupled with mounting difficulties in the corporate sector that funds many of the country’s clubs, have thrown the game into turmoil.

Jiangsu FC closed last year, months after they won the 2020 Chinese Super League title. Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic withdrew from the CSL and suspended operations in May due to mounting debt.

In the home and away format, clubs that have received permits from local authorities are allowed to host matches in their own stadiums.

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Reporting by Martin Pollard; Adaptation by Christian Radnedge

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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