MANCHESTER, England – The worsening virus outbreak led to the cancellation of Champions League football for the first time on Thursday. The high-profile game between Manchester City and Real Madrid has been postponed.
Juventus' home game against Lyon in the last 16 – also scheduled for Tuesday – was also canceled as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on leagues and cup competitions around the world, from Spain to the Netherlands to the USA
In South America, FIFA agreed to postpone qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. However, the English Premier League continued as usual and still allowed fans a full game round this weekend.
The Spanish league was halted at least for the next two rounds, shortly after Real Madrid announced that its players had been quarantined. This decision was made because one of the club's basketball players, who shares facilities with Madrid's soccer players, tested positive for the virus.
Hours later, UEFA announced that the game between the city and Madrid at the Etihad stadium had been postponed without a new date being set by the European Football Association. City leads 2-1 from first leg in Madrid.
At the same time, Juventus' game against Lyon was canceled by UEFA after it was confirmed on Wednesday that a player from the Italian team, Daniele Rugani, had tested positive for COVID-19. Lyon leads 1-0 from the first leg.
Rugani, who also plays for the Italian national team, was the first player in the country's best football division to test positive for the disease. A second was announced on Thursday – Sampdoria's striker Manolo Gabbiadini.
"I've already received so many messages, but I still want to assure you that I'm fine, so don't worry," Gabbiadini, who was in self-isolation, wrote on Twitter.
The outbreak of the virus has resulted in a nationwide ban in Italy, where football and all other sports have been suspended until April 3.
It is not known when the Champions League will resume. UEFA invited stakeholders to a video conference on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on European competitions.
"All national and European competitions", including this year's multi-country European championship, are discussed.
The World Health Organization called COVID-19 a pandemic, referring to its alarming spread and severity. It has infected more than 125,000 people worldwide and has caused more than 4,500 deaths since the outbreak in China.
In most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, this can lead to more serious illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people are recovering.
The English Premier League is still the outlier among the leading leagues in Europe.
After a government meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that sporting events could continue in the country – although they could be banned at a later date.
“We are guided by science. There are currently no epidemiological or medical reasons to ban such events, ”said Johnson.
The Premier League later confirmed that the games will take place this weekend. This also applies to other major sporting events in the UK such as Wales versus Scotland in the rugby and horse racing of the six nations at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival.
So far, only one Premier League game has been affected by the outbreak. Man City's home game against Arsenal on Wednesday has been canceled. This decision was made after members of the Arsenal squad were self-isolating as a precaution.
On Thursday, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said that "some" of his players have symptoms of a corona virus and are being kept away from the squad. Rodgers spoke two days before Leicester Watford plays.
Chelsea was thoroughly cleaned of its training ground on Thursday, which means that its players had not trained two days before their Premier League game against Aston Villa. No Chelsea player has shown any symptoms of the virus.
Elsewhere, the Dutch football authorities canceled all matches, including friendly matches against the United States and Spain, by the end of the month, and Portugal have closed their league until further notice.
The Belgian Football League resigned its decision to keep the stadiums open to fans during the outbreak and said the final round of regular top league games scheduled for this weekend will be played in empty stadiums .
Major League Soccer in the USA was also closed for a period of 30 days due to the virus.
In South America, FIFA approved a request from all CONCACAF member associations to postpone the start of World Cup qualification, which was due to start later this month. No new dates have been set for the games.
The games of the group phase of the Copa Libertadores tournament the following week were also postponed. Three Copa Libertadores games scheduled for Thursday should take place.
More news about the new corona virus can be found here.
What You Need to Know About Corona Virus.
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