Coronavirus: Footballers worried as World Cup & Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifiers under threat

Footballers worried about the impact of coronavirus have been contacting unions “out of fear” they could be forced to play in “high-risk environments”, according to global body Fifpro.

Qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and 2022 World Cup could be postponed in a bid to prevent the spread.

This weekend’s matches in Switzerland’s top two divisions have been postponed.


Tottenham’s Son Heung-min will self-isolate in line with UK guidelines when he returns from surgery in South Korea.

Newcastle and West Ham have banned handshakes at their training grounds in an attempt to stop the virus’ spread.


Fifpro, a global union with 65 affiliated national associations, says there have been talks between “various football stakeholders” about rescheduling international dates.

A number of World Cup qualifying matches in the Asian Football Confederation, including Australia’s home match against Kuwait and Hong Kong’s trip to Iran, are set to be played at the end of March.


China’s home qualifier against the Maldives has already been moved to Thailand and is set to be played behind closed doors.

Asian Champions League matches involving Chinese clubs Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua have also been postponed.

Five Italian Serie A matches will be played behind closed doors this weekend – including Juventus’ match at home to Inter Milan.

“While we understand the inconvenience this causes worldwide, the Covid-19 outbreak is bigger than football, and we applaud the willingness of competition organisers to take firm action in this delicate period,” said Fifpro, which works on behalf of more than 65,000 players.

“As the coronavirus continues to spread, with new cases emerging every day, we are calling on all football stakeholders to act responsibly.”

Isolated Son to follow ‘government advice’

Tottenham forward Son Heung-min holding his arm in pain
Son fractured his arm in the Premier League win at Aston Villa earlier this month

Tottenham forward Son, 27, travelled to Seoul for surgery ona fractured armearlier this month.

Tottenham say he will follow government advice and stay indoors as a precaution upon his return.


Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said his squad had a “ritual” of shaking hands with each other every morning.

“We’ve stopped that on the advice of the doctor,” he said.

“Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do.


“We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”

West Ham boss David Moyes said: “After consulting with the medical team, we have supplied all the players with hand gel to keep with them.

“We’ve also agreed to no shaking hands at the moment, just fist bumps. If we score tomorrow, of course they’ll be able to celebrate.”

More than 80,000 people have been infected by the virus, which originated in China but has since spread to more than 50 countries, resulting in nearly 2,800 deaths.

Three more cases of the virus were confirmed in the UK on Friday, bringing the total number in the country to 19.

The Premier League says clubs are following the same NHS and government advice issued to all businesses and venues which are used by large numbers of people.

There is currently no suggestion or guidance to take any additional measures, though the body says clubs are free to do so where deemed necessary.


Arsenal have introduced extra checks for media attending Saturday’s news conference at the club’s training ground, while Everton have contacted all staff informing them of the latest government guidelines.

Spanish La Liga side Valencia have cancelled “all meetings or public gatherings in enclosed spaces that present risk to players, coaching staff and club staff” after the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city.

Other major sporting events, including Six Nations rugby and the Chinese Grand Prix, have also been postponed because of the outbreak.



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