February 28 – After postponing or rescheduling a raft of regional matches because of the spread of the coronavirus, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has been forced to call off its entire 47-nation congress that was to be held at its Kuala Lumpur headquarters on April 16.
“Following the unavoidable postponement of the AFC Audit and Compliance, Finance and Legal Committee meetings as well as the AFC Executive Committee meeting because of heightened health concerns and travel restrictions, it was agreed that the Congress will take place at a later date that will be decided by the AFC Executive Committee,” a short statement said.
The AFC has moved swiftly in terms of taking control of its match calendar in regards to the coronavirus threat, making strong decisions in their region where government advisories have been slow in coming.
Dato’ Windsor John, the AFC General Secretary, said: “These are unprecedented and challenging times, but the AFC is working tirelessly to monitor the situation, including the various travel restrictions, while being in constant contact with our Member Associations, Leagues and Clubs.
“We are grateful for the support we have received from all our stakeholders, including our Commercial and Broadcast partners and agencies, as we try to protect the safety and well-being of all our players, officials and spectators while also ensuring the integrity of the competitions.”
Earlier this week the AFC scheduled a number of summits to discuss the possible impact of the coronavirus on the Asian Qualifiers for the 2020 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup, as well as Olympic qualifiers.
Meanwhile six more matches in the Asian Champions League were confirmed postponed on Thursday including five featuring clubs from Iran.
Iran, where the virus outbreak is currently proving the most challenging, provides a good example of the issues with no-one allowed in to Iran and Iranians unable to travel, currently it is hard to see how or where they will play their qualifiers that were originally scheduled to be completed in June.
North Korea, who are still in Asian Qualifier contention, are similarly challenged. In the same group as South Korea, the border crossings between the countries have been closed, whilst its other border with China is also closed. Even were they able to travel to China, they would not be able to travel out.
At its congress the AFC had been due to hold elections for its executive committee. Those elections will have to wait, perhaps until June when the AFC could use of the opportunity of the FIFA Congress in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to meet.
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