Japanese football, baseball aiming for April restarts amid talks of Olympics postponement

Hours after Japan's prime minister said postponing the Tokyo Olympics may be unavoidable, medical experts say Japanese soccer and baseball could resume by April end.

Football Fans

Fans wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus during the J1 League match between Kawasaki Frontale and Sagan Tosu at Todoroki Stadium on February 22 in Kawasaki.   -  GETTY IMAGES

On a day when Japan’s prime minister admitted postponing the Tokyo Olympics may be unavoidable, medical experts suggested it could be possible for the top-flight Japanese baseball and football seasons to resume by the end of next month.

Nippon Professional Baseball Organisation and the J.League received advice on Monday from medical experts during the fourth meeting of the joint panel that was formed to assess impacts of the coranavirus pandemic.

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Mitsuo Kaku, a professor in infection control and prevention at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University, said the sports officials should be targeting a start date at the end of April.

“There’s one month until then, so I would like them to prepare as much as possible while looking at the situation,” Kaku said.

Both leagues have been targeting a return at the beginning of April, but now it seems like they need to push it back further. NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito said “the revised timing would be alright if the situation stays the same and our preparation is fully ready.”

J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai said football officials would have another meeting later in the week. “It is difficult to forecast for the long-term because the situation is constantly changing,” Murai said. “If we decide it is difficult to resume matches at the beginning of April during the meeting, we will simulate dates in two weeks interval such as on April 18 and May 2.”

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Earlier on Monday, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary session that a postponement of the Tokyo Olympics would be necessary if the games cannot be held in a complete way. Abe was speaking hours after the the International Olympic Committee said for the first time that it was considering a postponement of the games, which are scheduled to start July 24.

Olympic officials from Canada said they would not send a team unless the Tokyo Games were delayed by 12 months, and the Australian Olympic Committee advised its athletes to prepare for the games to be staged in 2021.

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