A Europa League game in Israel on Thursday was postponed because visiting football players from Bosnia-Herzegovina tested positive for COVID-19.
It’s the fifth Champions League or Europa League qualifying game this month to be postponed at least once by virus cases. All involve infected players on teams from eastern Europe. Maccabi Haifa and eljeznicar both published statements on Thursday to say their game was postponed by the Israeli health ministry.
The Bosnian club said five of its players were positive for the coronavirus in pre-game tests on Wednesday that are mandatory for UEFA-organised matches during the pandemic. eljeznicar said the players did not show symptoms and the team was confined to its hotel awaiting a decision by UEFA on how to proceed.
UEFA competition rules during the pandemic give local public authorities power to manage cases and stop games going ahead. UEFA then decides when it will try to play games.
UEFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
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Games affected by clubs’ COVID-19 cases were expected in a tightly scheduled qualifying format where UEFA opted for single elimination games instead of two-leg home-and-away series. Neutral venues are offered when a country cannot host a game though incidents so far involve away teams, travelling from Kosovo, Slovakia and now Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In the four previous matches affected, UEFA eventually ordered three clubs to forfeit their games as 3-0 losses. Two clubs removed from the Champions League qualifying rounds - Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia and Drita of Kosovo - have appealed against UEFA’s rulings to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The court dismissed both clubs’ requests for emergency interim decisions.
Another club from Kosovo, Gjilani, was able to play four days after its Europa League game in San Marino was originally postponed. Gjilani then beat Tre Penne 3-1 last Saturday and is due to play again Thursday, hosting APOEL of Cyprus.