Fears for players’ mental health in virus-closed Chinese Super League

Shanghai (AFP) – Football clubs and players have voiced concern about their mental well-being when the Chinese Super League (CSL) starts because they will spend at least two months cut off from their families to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The CSL will kick off on July 25 — five months later than scheduled — with 16 teams split into two groups as part of strict epidemic control measures.

Eight teams will be based in a single hotel in Dalian and play their matches in the northeastern city, while the other eight will follow the same format in Suzhou, near Shanghai.

All matches will be played behind closed doors.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has released few details about the arrangement, but local media say when not playing or training, teams will be confined to their hotel.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), which on June 20 became the first major sport in the country to restart following the coronavirus, has implemented a similar two-city scheme.

There have been no reported positive coronavirus cases since the CBA restart.

Shijiazhuang Ever Bright’s chief executive Zhao Junzhe said he was concerned for his players.

“This needs some measures to help the players relax and we are enquiring with the Chinese Football Association about that,” he told Xinhua news agency.

“Some recreational facilities will be needed in the teams’ hotel.”

Xinhua said restrictions mean “teams will be cut off from outside contact for over two months”.

“As we are to play a league in a closed environment, I hope the organisers will find some ways to ease our players’ stress,” Jiangsu Suning’s Chinese international Wu Xi told Xinhua.

Writing in the Oriental Sports Daily, journalist Ji Yuyang said the CFA was aware of the problem and psychiatrists will be on hand “to ease the psychological suffering of having no family or friends around”.

“In short, be prepared, two months is not a joke,” Ji wrote.

“If the foreign players are chatting together in the bar and cafe every day, while the Chinese players are sitting and playing games together in their rooms, those two months will only be more difficult for all of them.”

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