Just as rumors were beginning to circulate that football in China might be ready to return from its coronavirus-enforced suspension, news of the first positive test at a Chinese team has brought renewed caution.
Authorities announced on Wednesday that an unnamed member of the playing staff at Meizhou Hakka, a second-division club based in southern Guangdong Province, had become the first footballer in the country to contract the virus.
The epidemic that broke out in Wuhan has caused havoc in global football, with the Chinese Super League among the first professional leagues to postpone all activities when its start was indefinitely suspended in early February.
Since then competitions around Asia have followed suit.
Leagues in South Korea and Japan are on hold while the AFC Champions League, Asia’s elite club competition, and the second-tier AFC Cup have also been heavily impacted.
However, with normal life slowly and cautiously returning in many parts of China there was hope that the new CSL campaign could make its long-awaited start.
Mid-April was being touted in some quarters while others were expecting a resumption by early May, with the caveat that nothing could happen without government approval.
Those hopes still remain, with the Meizhou positive test, which was reported by media to have been returned by the club’s Brazil player Dorielton following a training camp in Thailand, not viewed as insurmountable.
The majority of CSL clubs have returned home from extended preseason training camps in Europe or the Middle East, with players going into a 14-day quarantine period as a result of the time spent overseas.
That includes Wuhan Zall, the CSL side based in the city, epicenter of the outbreak.
Wuhan, which finished sixth last year, has been in Shenzhen, having departed Spain at the weekend just days before that country was locked down to tackle the spread of the disease.