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Football in China starting to return after 3-month delay due to the coronavirus outbreak

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Potential timeline?

Shanghai SIPG v Hebei China Fortune - 2019 Chinese Super League Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images

Everywhere the coronavirus has struck — which is, well, everywhere — we’ve seen similar patterns play out: closed doors, quarantines, social distancing, lockdowns of various severity and levels of enforcement. We’ve willingly and purposefully put societies, economies, daily life on hold to combat this thing. And that of course includes sports.

But in places where the virus first struck, we’re “winning”, in a way, and a sense of normalcy is starting to slowly return. We’ve seen the quarantine and lockdown measures work effectively in Hubei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and elsewhere in East Asia — the main risk in those areas are now “imported” cases via travel, which could lead much long(er)-term bans and restrictions of intercity/-region movement.

One indicator that things are getting better is that Chinese Super League teams have begun pre-season training once again, two months after the season (which plays spring-to-fall rather than the fall-to-spring we see in most of Europe) was originally supposed to start.

“We trained at a modest level, mainly focusing on strength and conditioning. It’s the first day that we are back to training, and the intensity will be gradually increased for sure.

“We are professional players, we should be able to overcome whatever obstacles lie in front of us. I believe with effort from everyone at the club we can stick together and overcome this difficult period together.

-Yu Hai; source: Shanghai TV via Inside World Football

The first match of 2020 CSL season had been pushed back tentatively to mid-April, though apparently there could be another slight delay after former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini tested positive last weekend. Fellaini had been out of the country and had just returned for start of training when he tested positive during the mandatory quarantine period — i.e. quite possibly another “imported” case.

If the CSL can get underway in late-April or early-May (the latter is also what the Japanese J-League are targeting), we will have seen a three-month delay all told due to this outbreak.

Translating that over to Europe, running about a month or month and a half behind, perhaps we can indeed hope for resumption at some point in June. That said, the spread of the virus (at least as far as officially reported numbers go) and the (lack of initial) response to it, seems likely to lead to a much worse situation in Europe, so we could very well be looking at a much longer timeline as well...