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Soccer-Chinese clubs expect approval for ACL travel

HONG KONG, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Chinese football officials are confident the country’s teams in the Asian Champions League (ACL) will be able to travel to Qatar when the competition resumes next week, even though approval has yet to be granted by authorities.

Two-time ACL champions Guangzhou Evergrande, Beijing Guoan, Shanghai SIPG and Shanghai Shenhua are still waiting for government permission to leave the country due to measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, sources told Reuters.

The quartet are due to travel to Doha on Nov. 14 for their ACL eastern group games, with the first matches to start on Nov. 18, and Chinese football officials believe the teams will be cleared to play.

“It’s still in the process to get government approval,” said a source. “Clubs are still working with local government, but I think they will make the trip happen.”

The ACL, which is split into western and eastern groups, was suspended in March due to the pandemic and has been moved to Qatar.

Only one Chinese club, Beijing Guoan, has played any ACL games so far this year, while clubs across the east of the continent have seen their schedules severely disrupted.

League seasons in Japan, South Korea and China either did not start when planned or were suspended in March before resuming in the summer, with competitions rescheduled to take place over a shorter time frame or reformatted completely.

Qatar hosted matches for teams from the ACL western group in September and October, although defending champions Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia were forced to withdraw when they were unable to select a full squad due to coronavirus infections.

Iranian side Persepolis defeated Al Nassr from Saudi Arabia in the semi-finals and will meet the winners of the ACL eastern group in Doha on Dec. 19. (Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Richard Pullin)

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