China to allow first football fans in stadiums since coronavirus

AFP , Thursday 20 Aug 2020

Chinese fans have been locked out of football stadiums since the coronavirus pandemic STR AFP

The Chinese Super League will allow 1,000 fans into a high-profile match on Saturday, the first time spectators can attend a game since the coronavirus pandemic.

It is a major step towards normalising football in China, where the virus was first detected last year, and paves the way for a limited number of supporters to attend selected future fixtures.

The CSL kicked off on July 25 behind closed doors, at neutral venues in Suzhou and Dalian, and five months late because of the health crisis.

Football officials spent Wednesday thrashing out details with Suzhou authorities and will allow 500 fans from Shanghai SIPG and the same number from title rivals Beijing Guoan, a source told AFP.

Fans must provide a certificate proving they have passed a coronavirus test within the past week, wear a mask, keep at least one metre (three feet) apart and have a temperature check on entry to the stadium.

"It's going to be a good game for the supporters, for sure, and I'm very happy because they will come again (to the stadium) and they are our family," said SIPG coach Vitor Pereira on Thursday.

Football leagues across the world have restarted despite the pandemic, but they have often done so without spectators and are now juggling how to safely allow fans to return.

Shanghai SIPG against Beijing Guoan is one of the biggest fixtures in the CSL calendar. Both sides are unbeaten in five matches and SIPG boast Brazilians Oscar and Hulk, as well as former West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic.

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