China move FIFA fixtures over COVID cases


World Cup qualifiers move to Dubai Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

COVID-19 has again shaken and stirred the world of football forcing China to move Group A qualifiers to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

‘Doha News’ stated that Dubai will now stage the remaining three FIFA World Cup™ Qatar 2022 qualifying games instead of Suzhou (China), the Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced on Monday.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup™ qualification process is a series of tournaments organized by the six FIFA confederations to decide 31 of the 32 teams that will play in the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, with Qatar qualifying automatically as hosts. All 210 remaining FIFA member-associations are eligible to enter the qualifying process.

The Chinese Football Association is the governing body of football in the People’s Republic of China.

The ‘Doha News’ further stated that the Chinese City was set to host matches between Maldives, Syria, Guam, the Philippines, and China, with the implementation of the so-called “sports bubble” to allow overseas players and officials into the City without undergoing quarantine.

However, organizers reached a dead-end after COVID-19 cases were found in the Syrian and Maldivian teams, pushing the country to move the Group A qualifiers to Emirates and adding yet another disruption to the qualifiers calendar.

A statement sent out by the CFA stated, “In view of the recent outbreak of infection in the Maldives and Syria national football teams, according to the relevant provisions of China on the prevention and control of infectious disease among inbound personnel, the entry of the Maldivian and Syrian teams to participate in the competition need to be strictly isolated and cannot participate as scheduled. Based on the AFC’s recommendation, the Chinese Football Association agreed, it has been decided that the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup™ and AFC Asian Cup 2023 joint-qualifier second stage Group A will not take place in Suzhou and is transferred to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.”

The Maldives and Syria teams were denied permission to depart for China and are presently in Dubai.

Popular Maldives striker Ali Ashfaq tweeted that he had tested positive and won’t be playing in the qualifiers.

Syria is currently leading Group A with 15 points after registering five straight wins. Meanwhile, the ex-hosts are now second after beating Guam 7-0 on Sunday in front of 30,000 fans, earning loud cheers from the heart of the stadium.

The remaining matches in the group will now take place in the Emirates, where Syria, Maldives and the Philippines are set to play. The games double as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.

The 2023 AFC Asian Cup will be the 18th edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Asia organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). It will be staged in China from June 16th to July 16th, 2023.

The CFA added, “The Chinese Football Association will make every effort to prepare for the matches.”

Despite the COVID upheaval, AFC said it hopes to keep to the original schedule, with the final round of matches to be held on June 15th.

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