Shanghai (AFP) – Chinese Super League footballers holed up in hotels for two months to prevent the spread of coronavirus will be able to pass the time by doing karaoke and playing badminton, an official said.
CSL clubs and players have voiced concerns about their mental well-being due to being stuck in a strictly closed environment when the virus-delayed season kicks off on July 25.
This year’s truncated campaign, which was supposed to start on February 22, will see the 16 clubs divided into two groups playing in two different cities during the first phase.
Half the teams will be based at a single hotel in Suzhou, near Shanghai, while the others will be confined to a hotel in the northeastern city of Dalian.
Players and staff will not be allowed outside the hotel, training ground and stadium, to stop any coronavirus infections spreading.
Referees will be subjected to the same harsh restrictions for at least two months and matches will be played behind closed doors.
Asked how the Chinese Football Association will safeguard physical and mental health, secretary-general Liu Yi said: “This is a topic of great concern to the football association, various clubs and the media.
“At the hotel base camps where the clubs will stay we have set up a variety of cultural and recreational activities,” he told Xinhua news agency, after the CFA outlined Wednesday the steps it was taking to launch the new season.
“That includes reading rooms, swimming pools, badminton courts, karaoke, etc.
“To give you an insight, I just went to Suzhou the day before yesterday to solve the problem of setting up a hairdressing room in the hotel.
“We believe that through various means, the players and referees can be balanced and happy.”
Usually, the bottom two teams are relegated from the CSL, but this season only the last-placed club will automatically drop down.
The team that finishes one off the bottom will go into a play-off with the second-placed team in China’s second tier, with the winner earning a spot in next year’s CSL.
The CFA resisted pressure from some top-tier clubs to scrap relegation, said CFA president Chen Xuyuan.
“The CSL must follow the basic law of football. If promotion and relegation are cancelled, the CSL will be less fair and competitive,” he told Xinhua.
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