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Diverging Covid-19 fortunes for Korean and Vietnamese football

(Image credit: K League)

Asian football leagues are experiencing mixed fortunes as they seek to return after Covid-19 shutdowns. Last weekend saw South Korean football fans return to stadiums, but in Vietnam this week a recent surge of infections forced football authorities to freeze activity throughout the national football pyramid.

In Korea, where home supporters are allowed into games at up to 10 per cent of stadium capacity, a total of 11,544 fans attended matches across K League 1 and 2. Poor weather conditions, including heavy rain and floods, kept crowd numbers down – the figure represents 61.2 per cent of the total possible attendance under the current capacity restriction.

K League 1 matches saw 8,984 supporters across six stadiums on Saturday and Sunday, accounting for 68.1 per cent of 13,194 available seats, as clubs opened stadium gates for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country, Yonhap reported.

The second-tier K League 2 saw a combined 2,560 fans attend five games over the weekend, taking up 45.1 per cent of 5,680 tickets on sale.

To facilitate the re-admission of fans, the K League has introduced a series of measures to limit the risk of Covid-19 spread. Social distancing was enforced as fans queued to get into stadiums, and as they sat within the venues, even among families with children.

In Vietnam, all football matches were suspended from August 2. A few days earlier, the top tiers of professional football in the country had been suspended. The VFF and the Vietnam Professional Football Joint Stock Company – the organisation that runs the country’s professional leagues – agreed that all games in the V.League 1 would be suspended starting from the 12th round of fixtures on July 29, with the V.League 2 being suspended from the 10th round of matches on July 30.

Following its postponement in February, the V.League 1 had returned to packed crowds in June. Over 400,000 spectators attended the first nine rounds this season, up 33.3 per cent year-on-year. V.League 1 returned with no restriction on supporters, in stark contrast to other professional European and Asian football leagues.