July 24 – On Saturday, defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua will finally kickstart this season’s Chinese Super League after a five month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.
China’s top flight had been due to kick off on February 22, but the rapid spread of Covid-19 prevented any football from being played.
The General Administration of Sport and Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China rejected several of the CSL’s plans and proposals for a restart, but the league was finally given the go-ahead after tweaking the format.
Teams and officials will be based in two groups based in Dalian and Suzhou for the first half of the season, reflecting the approach of the local basketball league’s plan to restart.
The league will create a bubble in the two cities with players submitted to Covid-19 tests once per week. The movements of all staff, players and officials will be restricted to stadiums and their hotels outside training and matches. Officials have warned that players and teams breaching protocols will face severe sanctions.
On Wednesday, a total of 1,870 players, coaches and staff were given nucleic acid tests. All tests came back negative, paving the way for Saturday’s kick-off. Nonetheless, officials will be concerned before this weekend’s curtain raiser after 15 coronavirus cases were recorded this week in Dalian.
A spokesman for the Dalian municipal government said they had followed the strict rules for the safety of players and officials. All matches in Dalian will be played behind closed doors. “We will enhance our communication and cooperation with the CFA in accordance with the latest development of the pandemic and strengthen our work through scientific knowledge,” said the spokesman.
The CSL’s 16 clubs have been divided into two groups, one per host city. The top half of both groups will progress to the knockout phase.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1596497116labto1596497116ofdlr1596497116owedi1596497116sni@o1596497116fni1596497116