BRUSSELS — The Belgian soccer league will start next season in empty stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic and it urged fans on Tuesday to avoid large gatherings when supporting their team.
The league’s decision came amid a surge of new COVID-19 infections in the country of 11.5 million inhabitants that has led the government to reintroduce drastic social-distancing measures. The restrictions announced Monday include lowering crowd limits at outdoor public events to 200 people.
The league said it wants “to guarantee the health of everyone in and around the world of soccer” with its decision.
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Coronavirus infections nosedived in Belgium in May and June but the country has witnessed a surge in confirmed cases over the past three weeks. According to figures released Tuesday, the number rose 69% from July 18-24 compared to the previous seven days, with an average of 311 people testing positive every day.
The league called on fans to follow their teams from their own homes or within their so-called “social bubble,” which is now limited to the same five people for at least the next four weeks under the government’s latest guidelines.
“Only by following the measures as strictly as possible can we ensure the start of the soccer season,” the league said.
The season was stopped in May with Club Brugge awarded its 16th Belgian title after the government decided that all sporting competitions would remain suspended until July 31. Club Brugge will aim for a domestic double when it takes on Antwerp in Saturday’s Belgian Cup final, the first competitive game in the country since the virus brought soccer to a halt.
The 2020-21 season will open the next weekend.
A Real Madrid player has tested positive for coronavirus days before the club’s UEFA Champions League second leg at Manchester City.
Mariano is said to be “in perfect health” — aside from the virus test — and quarantining away from Real.
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The 26-year-old Spanish-born Dominican Republic international has only played 84 minute this season across seven appearances, scoring one goal.
He’s been on the bench for four of Real’s last five matches and most recently made an appearance July 2 against Getafe.
Of course the players are tested often and Real will not be bringing any positive-testing players to England, but Mariano’s positive test is a stark reminder that vigilance is needed despite the knowledge of how well the virus has been “governed” since soccer restarted in Europe.
Here is Real’s statement from its official web site:
After the COVID-19 tests carried out yesterday on our first team footballers by the Real Madrid Medical Services, our player Mariano, tested positive. The player is in perfect health and is complying with the protocol of isolation at home.
Man City leads Real Madrid 2-1 after one leg and hosts La Liga’s champions at the Etihad Stadium on Friday. Sergio Ramos is suspended for the visitors.
DOHA, Qatar — Former Spain and Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The 40-year-old Xavi, now the coach of Qatari club Al-Sadd, said Saturday that he was tested according to the Qatar league protocol and that the latest test showed he had contracted COVID-19.
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“Fortunately, I’m feeling OK, but I will be isolated until I am given the all-clear. When the health services allow it, I will be very eager to return to my daily routine and to work,” Xavi said on Instagram.
Al-Sadd announced on its website that Xavi would not be joining the rest of the team for its league game against Al-Khor later Saturday.
It is third-place Al-Sadd’s first game since the league was suspended in March due to the pandemic. The league resumed on Friday.
Qatar has recorded 109,036 positive cases and attributed 164 deaths to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
British prime minister Boris Johnson has opened the door to opening the doors to Premier League stadiums.
Johnson says the UK will “pilot large gatherings” in August with a hope to allow big events from October.
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Premier League matches have been played behind closed doors for all of Project Restart and the 2019-20 season will end in two weeks time.
While October would presumably limit a full season’s worth of attendance including preseason, it would be a welcome development should attendance be deemed safe.
From Sky Sports:
“We will pilot larger gatherings in venues such as sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn,” Johnson said. “All of these measures, for August 1, should be done in a Covid-secure way. … From October we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and allow conferences and other business events to recommence, again these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way subject to the successful outcome of pilots.”
Obviously another “wave” of coronavirus could challenge the plan, but this, for now and from a non-scientific expert perspective, would appear to be a rare bit of good news.
The latest round of COVID-19 testing in the Premier League has again yielded superb results.
Just one of 2,071 players and staff tested returned positive, continuing a super pattern for the league.
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With the 13th round of testing now completed, a total of 18,351 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 19 positive results.
All players and staff at Premier League clubs are being tested twice a week.
Previous test results
Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.
Round 4: 28-29 May – 1,130 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 5: 1-2 June – 1,197 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 6: 4-5 June – 1,195 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 7: 8-9 June – 1,213 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 8: 11-12 June – 1,200 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 9: 15-16 June – 1,541 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 10: 17-21 June – 1,829 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 11: 22-28 June – 2,250 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 12: 29 June-5 July – 1,973 tested, with zero testing positive