HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Asian Football Confederation has postponed all matches in the AFC Cup tournament, the regional body announced on Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit sporting events around the world.
“Following the imposition of further preventive measures and travel restrictions by several national governments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, ,” the body said in a statement, “the Asian Football Confederation has decided today to postpone all AFC Cup 2020 matches until further notice.”
Games in the west of Asia had already been suspended prior to the announcement. The decision means matches due to be played in March and April in the confederation’s other four zones around Asia - south, central, south east and east - have now also been postponed.
The AFC Cup is the continent’s second-tier club competition and features teams from countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Singapore, Bangladesh and Tajikistan.
“The AFC will closely monitor the situation before deciding when to recommence the 2020 AFC Cup season,” the statement said.
“The decision, which was also made in conjunction with the competing clubs and their respective member associations, is a precautionary measure to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all participating players and teams, match officials and spectators as well as designed to protect the integrity of the competition.”
The coronavirus outbreak has had a major impact on football across Asia, with the start of the Chinese Super League and the K-League in South Korea suspended indefinitely while Japan’s J-League was halted after the opening round of matches.
The Asian Champions League, the region’s leading club competition, has also been severely affected, with the schedule of the group phase thrown into disarray since the tournament kicked off in early February.
Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge