FIFA is considering postponing the Asian World Cup qualifiers due to be played this month because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the global soccer body said yesterday.
China’s matches against Maldives at home and Guam away have already been moved to Buriram, Thailand, and will be played behind closed doors.
However, more than two dozen other matches are scheduled to be played around the continent over two match days on March 26 and 31.
“A formal proposal to postpone upcoming matches in the Asian FIFA World Cup 2022 and the Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers will now be shared with the relevant member associations,” said FIFA in a statement.
“For both FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, the well-being and health of all individuals involved in football matches remains the highest priority.”
FIFA said it would provide an update following consultations with the national associations and would continue to monitor the situation in cooperation with the World Health Organization.
The women’s Olympic playoff between China and South Korea, both hard-hit by the virus, is also up for discussion, as well as the AFC Futsal Championship in Turkmenistan.
The women’s Olympic playoff, already postponed once, is set for April 9 and 14 and the futsal championship was due to start on February 26.
Elsewhere, Italy’s Six Nations rugby match against England next week was postponed yesterday because of the virus outbreak in the country.
Italy’s visit to Ireland in Dublin scheduled for tomorrow was already postponed, but tournament organizers insisted all of the remaining matches in the last two rounds were going ahead as scheduled.
The decision to put off the Italy-England men’s, women’s and under-20 matches in Italy over March 14-15 followed the decree from the Italian government on Wednesday that all sporting events in Italy must take place without spectators until April 3. Schools and universities throughout the country have been shut until March 15.
The COVID-19 virus has infected more than 3,000 people and caused more than 100 deaths in Italy.
Because of the government decree, Six Nations organizers had a choice to play the matches with no spectators or postpone them. They decided to play them at later dates yet to be determined.
“The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England (men’s, women’s, and U20) … with the intention to reschedule them at later dates,” tournament organizers said in a statement.
“Six Nations fully intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows. We will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements while we keep assessing the situation.”