July 9, 2020 / 9:44 AM / a month ago

Bulgarian game to be played without spectators due to COVID-19 cases

SOFIA (Reuters) - The Bulgarian league match between Lokomotiv Plovdiv and CSKA Sofia on Thursday will take place without spectators after Lokomotiv players, officials and dozens of fans tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Bulgarian Cup Final - CSKA Sofia v Lokomotiv Plovdiv - Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria - July 1, 2020 General view inside the stadium as smoke from flares obscures the pitch, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

The domestic league resumed on June 5 after an almost three-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic and fans have been able to attend matches unlike in most European leagues.

At least five players from Lokomotiv Plovdiv tested positive for COVID-19 having been filmed taking part in packed nightclub celebrations after the club won the Bulgarian Cup for a second consecutive year last Wednesday.

Hundreds of fans also joined the late-night party in Bulgaria’s second-largest city.

Lokomotiv beat CSKA 5-3 on penalties to win the Cup in front of 12,000 spectators at the Vasil Levski national stadium with many fans appearing to break social distancing rules in the stands. [L8N2E862N]

“We made the decision after talks with the regional health inspectorate, the interior ministry and the owner of the club,” District Governor of Plovdiv Region Dani Kanazireva said.

“I firmly believe that in this situation we must not take any additional risk. I hope that the fans of both football teams understand the situation.”

Lоkomotiv said that substitute keeper Ilko Pirgov, Austrian striker Kenan Muslimovic and captain Dimitar Iliev were among the infected players.

Thousands of Lokomotiv fans took to the streets of Plovdiv during the victory parade on Monday, breaching guidelines on social distancing.

Several Bulgarian clubs have already been hit by the virus with Cherno More Varna reporting 16 positive tests on Monday. [L8N2ED2LM]

As of Thursday, Bulgaria had 6,342 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus while more than 259 people had died.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Toby Davis

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