Coronavirus latest: AFC Cup matches postponed, China women’s handball misses Tokyo 2020 qualifiers, and more

(Image Credit: AFC website)

Asian Football Confederation Cup matches involving teams from East Asia have been postponed until April due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The AFC said on Tuesday: “Taking into consideration the overall logistical arrangements as well as match preparations of the East Zone participating clubs, the AFC has decided that… the AFC Cup 2020 (East Zone) preliminary, playoff and group stage matches will be postponed and will recommence on April 7, 2020.”

“In addition, the AFC also confirms that Turkmenistan’s FA Ahal are considered to have withdrawn from the tournament due to their failure to report for their Preliminary Round 2 Central Zone match against Kyrgyz Republic’s FC Neftchi on February 05, 2020, in accordance to Article 6.1 of the AFC Cup 2020 Competition Regulations.

“Therefore, FC Neftchi will now face Tajikistan’s FC Khujand over two legs in the Central Zone playoffs on Feb 19 and 26 for a place in the Group Stage of the 2020 AFC Cup.”

The AFC had earlier been forced to change the dates of home games for Vietnamese clubs after Vietnam cancelled all sports events in February because of the virus.

The AFC Champions League has also been disrupted, with Chinese clubs mainly sidelined until April.

China Women’s Handball

China’s women’s handball team and Hong Kong will not be going to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after pulling out of the qualifying tournament next month due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The International Handball Federation released a statement saying: “Due to the withdrawal of the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong’s invitation decline due to the coronavirus, Thailand has been named as the 12th nation that will participate in the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament.”

Last week the IHF announced that the 2020 Women’s Youth World Championship would not be held in China in August as planned, with a new date to be announced after an IHF meeting on February 27.

Manchester United

ESPN reports that Manchester United’s preseason plans to return to Asia have been kept on hold due to the coronavirus.

The Premier League club were keen to promote their club-themed “entertainment and experience centres” in China, due to open at the end of 2020 in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang.

There were also talks about playing friendlies in other parts of Asia and India in July, but United will now “wait and see” before making any firm plans for their preseason tour, with a return to North America an option if the coronavirus situation in Asia does not improve.

Fiba Asia Cup 2021

World basketball governing body Fiba have moved two Asia Cup qualifiers out of Hong Kong due to the coronavirus threat.

Hong Kong was to host Guam on February 20, and then Australia on February 23. Both games will now be away fixtures with Hong Kong playing Australia in Brisbane on February 23, three days after playing Guam away.

The Hong Kong Basketball Association said in a statement: “We are disappointed that Hong Kong fans cannot watch their players perform against Australia, who are one of the best teams in the world.

“But we respect the decision of Fiba and we will travel to Brisbane for the game.”

Chinese Table Tennis

The Chinese table tennis squad have taken up Qatar Table Tennis Association offer to use their Aspire Academy Arena as a training camp ahead of the Qatar Open, to avoid returning back to China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

The QTTA has provided meals, accomodation, 15 practice tables and 2,000 balls.

Chinese Table Tennis Association president Liu Guoliang said: “We are very grateful for all the assistance provided to us during this time of difficulty.

“We didn’t expect that they could prepare the venue, tables and facilities for us within such a short period of time … it’s very heart-warming, especially during this particular period and we really appreciate all this help from our international friends.”

QTTA president Khalil Al-Mohannadi said: “When I heard about the coronavirus in China, our worry was that the Chinese national team would not be able to play at the Qatar Open.

“For me it is not the Qatar Open and not the World Championships without China. We are all part of the ITTF family and we are doing this as friends for the whole table tennis family.”

The International Table Tennis Federation said that offers from other table tennis federations to host the Chinese squad also came from Germany, Austria and Japan.

ITTF chief executive Steve Dainton said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s China or any other country, when there’s any big disaster or problem, we always try our best to help our brothers and sisters out.”

AFL China Fixture

The Australian Football League’s annual China fixture between St Kilda and Port Adelaide in Shanghai on May 31, is set to be scrapped, according to The Age.

This was after the Shanghai Sports General Association declared last week that “all sporting bodies should suspend sport events until the threat is over and formulate a plan for epidemic prevention to avoid internal infections.”

The AFL first began holding an annual competitive fixture in Shanghai in 2017, and St Kilda are contracted to play in China until 2021. Both AFL clubs face the prospect of heavy commercial and financial losses should the China fail to proceed, with both clubs making a profit close to AUD$1m ($671,900/€615,400) from last year’s fixture. Port Adelaide has gone as far as to put a staff member on the ground in Shanghai to promote the fixture.

Discussions are now ongoing between the AFL and the two clubs on when and where to hold the fixture, with the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne a likely venue.

St Kilda general manager Simon Lethlean said: “Obviously Marvel’s there with the roof and is our home ground too, so there’s some viable options, but we’ll soon do the work on all the options that are available to us.”

Badminton Asia Team Championships

China and Hong Kong have had to withdraw from this week’s Badminton Asia Team Championships in Manila due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Philippines has temporarily banned all travellers from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan due to the outbreak, leaving organisers unable to arrange visas for players and officials for the February 11 to 16 event.

Badminton Asia said in a statement yesterday: “However, the decision to impose the 14 days quarantine period for all travellers coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau has to be respected in view of the health and safety of the Philippines government for its people.

“It is in this respect that the above event will not see the teams from China and Hong Kong competing. The India’s Women Team withdrawal was owing to concerns shown by the parents and players.”

India will, however, send its men’s team after they agreed to travel to Manila.

Shanghai Online Fitness Program

Amid the coronavirus epidemic, the Shanghai Administration of Sports has launched an online program in which Chinese Olympic gold medalists showcase in-house fitness exercises.

Since Monday, short videos of Xu Lijia, former Olympic sailing champion and Yang Yang, former Winter Olympic champion in short track speedskating have been displayed on the WeChat account of the Shanghai Administration of Sports.

Other Olympic champions, including Wu Minxia, former Olympic champion for diving events and world champion will engage in the program and there will be more types of exercises designed specially for people of different ages and body conditions, according to Zhao Guangsheng, the deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports.

Singapore Premier League

The upcoming Singapore Premier League season will proceed as planned, with measures such temperature screening to be carried out at entry points to stadiums.

The 2020 season is slated to begin on February 22 with a Community Shield match between champions Brunei DPMM and Tampines Rovers.

The Football Association of Singapore said fans who display symptoms of respiratory illness such as flu, cough or shortness of breath will be denied entry to the stadium. Entry will also be denied to fans with a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more.

In addition, all carnival activities, festivals and non-essential football events will be cancelled, and there is also the possibility that matches may be played behind closed doors.

National Hockey League

Around 75% of ice hockey sticks used by NHL players come from Chinese factories, with manufacturers Bauer, CCM and True Hockey all getting products and components from the country, according to NBC broadcaster Pierre McGuire.

A travel ban in China means the league has not received a new shipment of sticks since January and, according to McGuire, NHL equipment managers have informed him there is a “major shortage.”

Players are also aware that there is a stick shortage, and with no insight on when travel will resume, are being extra careful with what they do have.

“I’ve been kind of looking for some, and I think they’re kind of slowed up a bit for obvious – for a good reason,” Boston Bruins forward Charlie Coyle, who uses CCM sticks, said to the Boston Globe. “So I am trying to make do. Trying not to break too many right now.”

International Federation of Sport Climbing

The IFSC has shipped 10,000 breathing masks to the Chinese Mountaineering Association, also encouraging its other national federations to join the initiative.

The IFSC and the CMA are also in discussions on the upcoming IFSC competitions scheduled in April – the IFSC World Cups in Wujiang and Chongqing and the IFSC Asian Championships, also scheduled in Chongqing. The events could be postponed, moved or even cancelled, if necessary.

IFSC president Marco Scolaris said in a statement: “First of all we would like to send our best wishes to those affected by the coronavirus and to those who are directly or indirectly suffering because of the epidemic. At the same time, the health of our athletes and of all the people that work for our Member Federations is our main concern.

“We all know that we have an obligation towards the International Olympic Committee and our Asian Council; we will make sure that the Qualification System for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is respected, but we will also avoid any risk for anybody’s health.”