Coronavirus: AFC Champions League group games of Chinese teams postponed

The Asian Football Confederation has taken measures to limit the threat of the coronavirus to its Champions League teams.

REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE.   -  Getty Images

Chinese clubs in the AFC Champions League have seen their first three group games postponed due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Tuesday that the matches, which were due to be held this month and in March, will be rearranged for April and May.

The exception is the game between Chiangrai United and Beijing FC, which will go ahead as planned on February 18 as Beijing is in South Korea on a training camp and therefore "may not need quarantine measures", according to the AFC.

Shanghai Shenhua, Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG are the other Chinese Super League sides involved in this year's tournament.

The AFC's decision came after an emergency meeting in Kuala Lumpur was called after failed initial attempts to have all four Chinese clubs play their first three group games away from home.

The AFC put forward that idea on January 29 but said it proved impossible because "some governments, including Australia, have introduced restrictions which made it impossible for Chinese clubs to travel to play the re-arranged matches".

READ | Coronavirus: Fed Cup postponed by three weeks after outbreak

Dato' Windsor John, the AFC general secretary, said in a statement: "We came together in difficult circumstances to find solutions to allow us to play football while ensuring we protect the safety and security of all players, officials, stakeholders and fans.

"We also accept that this coronavirus is a much bigger issue than just football and we wish all those who have been affected a speedy return to health."

China's top flight has already suspended the opening round of matches due to the coronavirus, while the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing have been put back to 2021 and this year's Chinese Grand Prix also appears under threat.

The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak of the virus a global health emergency.

There were 20,630 confirmed cases of the disease, which has mostly affected China but has spread to 153 other countries, as of February 4. At least 362 people have died.

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