Coronavirus pandemic

Fifa moves Club World Cup to February

Perth Glory's Nicholas D'Agostino finding no way through the Shanghai Shenhua defence in their Asian Champions League (East) Group F match yesterday. The Chinese side won 2-1 to begin the campaign that was delayed for eight months.
Perth Glory's Nicholas D'Agostino finding no way through the Shanghai Shenhua defence in their Asian Champions League (East) Group F match yesterday. The Chinese side won 2-1 to begin the campaign that was delayed for eight months.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The Fifa Club World Cup, originally planned for December, will now be held from Feb 1 to 11 in Doha, Qatar, organisers said on Tuesday.

The tournament brings together the six continental champions and the hosts, with Champions League winners Bayern Munich the first to qualify.

Last season's tournament saw Liverpool beat Brazilian club Flamengo in the final.

World governing body Fifa did not state if supporters would be able to attend any of the games, noting only that "in line with Fifa's international match protocol, Fifa and the host country will provide the required safeguards for the health and safety of all involved".

A new expanded 24-team Club World Cup was due to be held in June to July next year in China but with Euro 2020 and the Copa America being held next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the tournament is set to be rescheduled.

Fifa also opted against moving two postponed age-group Women's World Cups to next year, instead allowing the planned hosts to hold those tournaments in 2022. Costa Rica and India will organise the Under-20 and Under-17 events respectively.

Separately, the Asian Champions League (East), suspended because of the pandemic since early March, resumed yesterday after an eight-month delay.

First-half goals by Peng Xinli and Yu Hanchao secured Shanghai Shenhua a 2-1 win over Perth Glory in their Group F tie.

Fifteen teams will race through 33 matches in a little over two weeks to complete the group stage, with eight teams then playing the knockout phase to decide who reach the Dec 19 final.

Players and officials, who have all been cleared of Covid-19 pre-and post-departure, will have to undergo polymerase chain reaction tests every three to six days and games will be played behind closed doors in the Doha bio-secure bubble.

All those involved are limited only to the hotel, stadium and training sites, and Qatari officials are confident that refinements made to health protocols will prevent any infections from again influencing the outcome of the competition.

The Asian Champions League (West), completed last month, was hit by a raft of cases, including within Saudi title-holders Al Hilal, who were unable to finish their fixtures due to a lack of players.

Dr Abdul Wahab Al Musleh, the adviser to the Qatari Minister of Public Health, said the local authorities had learnt from the experience.

"This time we are doing the testing more often," he told Reuters. "And there are several other public measures that we have undertaken.

"For example, we limit their interactions with others, including their own team in the hotel, so we encourage strongly all their technical meetings are happening online or outdoors."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2020, with the headline 'Fifa moves Club World Cup to February'. Subscribe