Coronavirus: Asean Basketball League postpones 21 games in March, 4 Slingers matches affected

Singapore Slingers general manager Michael Johnson and player Leon Kwek during the Asean Basketball League match against Taipei Fubon Braves at the OCBC Arena on Feb 9, 2020. At left is coach Neo Beng Siang. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - When the Asean Basketball League (ABL) first announced the postponement of 15 games due to the coronavirus situation this month, the Singapore Slingers were the only one of the 10 participating teams to avoid disruption to their schedule, but not anymore.

In a statement released on Wednesday (Feb 26), the ABL announced that it will hold off another 21 games next month. These include the Slingers' home match against Formosa Dreamers on Sunday, and away games at Saigon Heat (March 10 and 22) and Macau Wolf Warriors (March 12).

It said the ABL would follow all the travel restrictions imposed by the governments of member countries and also continue "to work with all the teams in finding the best solutions to still push through with the games in the most responsible manner possible".

It is understood that the ABL is committed to finishing the season and is exploring options to play games at neutral venues in Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia.

Slingers general manager Michael Johnson told The Straits Times: "We are disappointed that we have been forced by Formosa to postpone our home game this Sunday, but we need to respect and follow the ABL decision on this."

He added that tickets already purchased for this Sunday's game will be valid for the rescheduled match, and if fans cannot make it then, they are entitled to a full refund. Their next game is now away against the Kuala Lumpur Dragons on March 6.

The Slingers have lost their last two games and saw centre Anthony McClain aggravate a foot injury in the 77-68 defeat by the Dragons last Sunday as they are stuck in seventh place with seven wins and nine losses.

But Johnson dismissed the notion that they could do with a break to regroup.

He said: "Maybe it is a bonus personally for McClain as he has more time to be ready for our next game, but as a team, we are always ready to play."

He admitted they were disappointed with their recent performances "because we were out of sync and not playing as a team".

But he insisted that there was no need to panic, explaining: "If you look at the table, other than leaders Mono Vampire, all the other teams have lost at least six games. This shows the league is competitive and exciting, and that any team can win regardless of their seedings when the playoffs come."

Meanwhile, the Men's World Floorball Championship (WFC) qualification tournament for the Asia-Oceania region, which was to be played in Bangkok, has been cancelled due to the corona virus situation.

The International Floorball Federation (IFF) then announced on Tuesday that the top four teams in the region - world No. 16 Singapore, Australia (13th), Thailand (14th) and Japan (17th) - will qualify directly for the Dec 4-12 WFC in Helsinki, Finland.

The IFF said the Thai Hockey Association would not be able to host the event because of a quarantine directive from the Thai Ministry of Public Health for people returning or arriving from affected countries.

It also cited the withdrawal of support from the Thailand National Sport University for operations and host venue Bangkok Arena as reasons for the tournament's cancellation.

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