Chinese FA chief urges vigilance amid COVID-19 concerns


DALIAN, China, July 27 (Xinhua) — The Chinese Football Association (CFA) president Chen Xuyuan has expressed concerns that any lapses in virus control measures could lead to ruinous consequences for the ongoing coronavirus-delayed Chinese Super League (CSL) campaign.

The CSL new season, delayed for over five months due to the COVID-19 outbreak, kicked off on Saturday amid strict anti-virus restrictions.

The 16 contesting teams were split into two groups, one based in Dalian and the other in Suzhou, to play a tournament-style league behind closed doors. Players, coaches and other working staff are confined to a sealed-off area until September 28 when the first phase of the league ends.

Chen, the mastermind behind the two-city scheme, said he was alarmed at the news that the Chinese naturalized player Ricardo Goulart, who had recently joined Hebei China Fortune on loan from Guangzhou Evergrande, was found to have mixed with fans for photo-taking without wearing a face mask in Suzhou on Friday, two days after a new confirmed COVID-19 case was detected in Dalian.

“This accident exposed the lapse of our management,” Chen told Xinhua.

“When Goulart took pictures, he was inside the fenced-off area, but the fans could still approach him. The problem lies in the fencing which fails to separate the player far enough from the fans,” he said.

“As Goulart’s team had to go to a reserved field for training outside the sealed-off area, the fencing was temporarily fixed. But the organizers did not pay enough attention to it. It is a small detail, but one that could lead to serious results (when overlooked),” the CFA president said.

“These kinds of things can happen many times every day. We cannot afford any lapses. I’m under huge pressure to make sure these small details can be dealt with properly. This is also a great test for our league’s management,” he said.

It was established that Goulart had been fined and warned about his action under relevant stipulations the CFA made for the revamped league. The Brazilian-born player started in the Hebei side’s 2-2 draw with Shijiazhuang Ever Bright on Sunday.

Chen said he demanded full commitment from his staff to the league’s organization and operation.

“Until the end of the first phase, they are prohibited from drinking alcohol, sightseeing, partying, and visiting local relatives or friends. Any violation will result in expulsion. I told them that we were organizing an unprecedented league campaign amid uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. We had to make some personal sacrifices,” Chen said.

He said he was shocked when hearing that a new COVID-19 case was confirmed in Dalian last Wednesday, three days before the kick-off of the CSL new season.

“My heart became a bit heavy at that news. Then I had no idea of how serious the situation was and how it would affect the league,” he said.

“But I rested assured after being told that the situation was under control, and I was confident that so long as we could carry out our well-designed program, the league could be held in a virus-free environment,” he said. Enditem


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