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Saturday, January 29, 2022

World Cup qualifiers move to Dubai after Syria, Maldives players test positive for Covid-19


Covid-19 havoc has yet again hit the world of football, pushing China to move Group A qualifiers to the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai will now host the remaining three Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying games instead of Suzhou, the Chinese Football Association [CFA] announced on Monday.

The Chinese city was set to host matches between Maldives, Syria, Guam, the Philippines and China, with the implementation of the so-called “sports bubble” to allow overseas players and officials into the city without undergoing quarantine.

However, organisers reached a dead-end after Covid-19 cases were found in the Syrian and Maldivian teams, pushing the country to move the Group A qualifiers to Emirates and adding yet another disruption to the qualifiers calendar.

“In view of the recent outbreak of infection in the Maldives and Syria national football teams, according to the relevant provisions of China on the prevention and control of infectious disease among inbound personnel, the entry of the Maldivian and Syrian teams to participate in the competition need to be strictly isolated and cannot participate as scheduled,” the CFA said in a statement.

“Based on the AFC’s recommendation, the Chinese Football Association agreed, it has been decided that the 2022 Qatar Fifa World Cup and AFC Asian Cup 2023 joint-qualifier second stage group A will not take place in Suzhou and is transferred to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.”

Read also: How football pitches became a global stage for the Palestinian cause.

According to Chinese local news, the Maldives and Syria teams were denied permission to depart for China and are currently in Dubai.

Popular Maldives striker Ali Ashfaq tweeted that he had tested positive and won’t be playing in the qualifiers.

Syria is currently leading Group A with 15 points after registering five straight wins. Meanwhile, the ex-hosts are now second after beating Guam 7-0 on Sunday in front of 30,000 fans, earning loud cheers from the heart of the stadium.

The remaining matches in the group will now take place in the Emirates, where features Syria, Maldives and the Philippines are set to play. The games double as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.

“The Chinese Football Association will make every effort to prepare for the matches,” the CFA said.

Despite the disturbing, AFC said it hopes to keep to the original schedule, with the final round of matches on June 15.

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