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No hugs as China football draws up coronavirus battle plan

Shanghai (AFP) – The Chinese Super League (CSL) will be stripped of exuberant goal celebrations — and fans — as it attempts to start during the coronavirus pandemic, reports said on Wednesday. 

The CSL has ambitions of launching the season in late June or early July, and Chinese football authorities have drawn up detailed plans to keep players and fans safe.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has taken a keen interest in South Korea’s K-League and Germany’s Bundesliga, which led the way in restarting despite lingering virus fears.

CSL matches will be held initially behind closed doors, in step with the K-League and Bundesliga, before fans are gradually allowed in, state media said.

Supporters will then have to sit at least one metre (three feet) apart, the Beijing Youth Daily said, while substitutes will also be spaced out on the sidelines and must wear masks.

“In addition, for the game itself, the league will also cancel (child) mascots, team handshakes, group photos and other activities,” the report said.

“Photojournalists’ area will be limited to behind the goal line and the sideline. 

“After a goal is scored players are not allowed to gather and hug, all celebrations will be replaced by applause.”

The anti-virus plans need government approval for the season to kick off.

The CSL, which was supposed to start on February 22, became one of the first sporting casualties of the coronavirus outbreak when it was indefinitely postponed in January.

However, Chinese football is edging towards starting the season after authorities declared that they have mostly curbed local infections.

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