New Zealand Football has expressed its disappointment at having to cancel a friendly with world powerhouse Belgium next month, in what would have been the first fixture for the All Whites in almost a year. NZF said the coronavirus pandemic had played a major part in its decision to cancel the October 8 match in Brussels, with many of its players facing restrictions on travel and quarantine concerns before they returned to their clubs.

World governing body FIFA said clubs would not be obliged to release players in the September international window if they had to spend time in quarantine. “As it currently stands we aren’t able to get enough of our team to the game and back to their respective countries without major disruptions to their domestic seasons,” NZF Chief Executive Andrew Pragnell said in a statement on Saturday.

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“It would have [also] taken them out of contention for their club sides and impacted on their long-term development as players and their careers.”

The All Whites have not played since last November. They had scheduled fixtures against Bahrain and Oman in March, but they were also cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. They are also scheduled to play England at Wembley on November 12 but Pragnell made no mention of that fixture on Saturday other than to say they “continue to monitor the situation around future games.”