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Coronavirus takes toll on sporting world

K League says season will be postponed, KBL to hold meeting
Feb 25,2020
The coronavirus outbreak began affecting the sporting world when events scheduled to be held in China were moved to different countries, but the surge in confirmed cases has now led to some events being postponed altogether.

Last Friday, the K League announced it was postponing two matches - between Daegu FC and Gangwon FC in Daegu this Saturday and between Pohang Steelers and Busan I’Park in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, on March 1 - due to the spread of the coronavirus.

However on Monday, the K League announced it would be going a step further and temporarily halting the entire start of the 2020 season. Originally, the 2020 K League 1 season was supposed to start this weekend with two matches. Defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors was going to host Suwon Samsung Bluewings at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium this Saturday, with the match starting at 2 p.m. Following that match, Ulsan Hyundai FC was expected to host FC Seoul at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan on the same day starting at 4 p.m.

Before the K League held its emergency meeting, it canceled Wednesday’s media day, ahead of the season openers.

Other than the K League schedule, the Korean women’s football team’s Olympic qualifying match against China was also impacted by the outbreak but to a slightly lesser extent.

Last Friday, the Asian Football Confederation announced that it has come to an agreement with the Chinese Football Association that the second leg of the playoff series will be played in Australia instead of China.

The first leg of the match will be held at Yongin Citizen Sports Park in Yongin, Gyeonggi, on March 6, as scheduled, but for the second leg, which China was supposed to host on March 11, will be held at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney, Australia.

Along with K League 1 matches, the K League said it will postpone all schedules for the FA Cup, K3 and K4 leagues.

For sports that are currently in session, the majority have decided to end their season earlier than scheduled. The 2019-20 season of the SK Handball Korea League was expected to end in April, but the season was instead concluded as of Sunday’s match. The Korea Curling League, too, postponed the playoffs, which were scheduled to start on Monday. The Korean Basketball League (KBL) is scheduled to have a committee meeting today about finishing the season behind closed doors.

The women’s basketball and volleyball leagues have been continuing their seasons but have stopped fans from attending the games.

On the global stage, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) also announced on Friday that due to the first confirmed case of coronavirus, it has postponed the first stage draw for the Hana Bank 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships, which was scheduled to be held on Saturday, Feb. 22.

“The ITTF and KTTA [Korea Table Tennis Association] are taking advice from the World Health Organization and working with the Korean government to put in place the most robust health and safety measures,” the ITTF said in its announcement. “The ITTF and KTTA are continuing to monitor the situation closely and will provide further updates when more information comes to hand.”

BY KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]