Most of the Asian leagues have resumed post the Covid-19 break albeit no fans in the stands ….
Although there are no signs of the Coronavirus pandemic slowing down, the world is slowly moving towards a new normal where the possibility of infection is reduced to the largest extent possible. Football, one of the most essential ‘non-essentials’, has returned in most parts of the world, with numerous rules and regulations in place to ensure the probability of contraction is reduced.
However, we are yet to see many leagues allow fans to fill the stadium and create a matchday atmosphere.
The Bundesliga was the first prominent league to restart post the Covid-19 break, while other European leagues soon followed. The Asian leagues too picked up lately, with Bhutan and Malaysia being the latest country to restart proceedings.
The Chinese Super League was scheduled to begin in February. After a long wait, the ball finally hit the pitch last weekend with Guangzhou Evergrande taking on Shanghai Shenhua at the Dalian Sports Centre Stadium. However, all games are played in the tournament’s two hubs – Suzhou and Dalian.
The Qatar Stars League kicked off on the same weekend at matchday 18. All games are being played in either the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha or the Al Wakrah Sports Complex at Al Wakrah. Al-Duhail are currently on top of the table with 46 points in 19 games. Al Rayyan, who are just four points behind are the only other contenders for the title.
It has been about a month since the J1 League restarted at matchday two. The J1 League teams are not restricted to neutral venues and are allowed to host their home games as usual.
The Saudi Professional League resumed on Tuesday with Al-Fateh overcoming Al Feiha 2-0 in the opener. After 22 rounds of football, Al-Hilal are on top of the table with 51 points in 22 games and are enjoying a six-point lead over Al-Nassr.
South Korea was one of the first countries to see a mass outbreak of the virus and it was also one of the first to flatten the curve to an extent. Football returned to the Asian giants as early as the first week of May. With 35 points after 14 rounds, Ulsan are enjoying a slender three-point lead over Jeonbuk.
The A-League took off on July 17 with Sydney FC defeating Wellington Phoenix at the Nestrata Stadium. Sydney are at the top after garnering 51 points in 23 games. Melbourne City are second with 43 points from 24 games.
The Vietnamese League(V-League) was among the first to restart post the CoVID break. Hai Phong played Ho Chi Minh City on June 5 in what was the first game since March 15. Sai Gon are on top of the table with 23 points after 11 rounds of football.
The Persian Gulf Pro League (Iran) followed cue just three weeks later. Foolad edged Esteghlal 2-1 at the Shohadaye Foolad Khoozestan to kick start proceedings. After 27 matchdays, Persepolis sit pretty at the top of the table with 63 points in the bag and a massive 15-point lead over Esteghlal.
The Jordanian Pro League saw a restart on Monday with Al-Wehdat cruising to a 3-0 win over Al-Salt on matchday two at the Amman International Stadium. The matches are scheduled to be played at just four venues.
Malaysian football fans will see a spike in their adrenaline on August 26 with a full set of Malaysia Super League games scheduled on that day. The teams started individual training on June 15 and group training one month later. The sport is now set to return to the country for the first time since the second week of March.
Meanwhile, the UAE Pro League was voided and the teams that qualified for the 2020 AFC Champions League were provided with the slots for the following season too. The Iraqi Premier League followed the same procedure.
The return dates of the Thai League 1, the Philippines Football League and the Singapore Premier League are unclear, while the Indonesian professional league (Liga 1) is set to return in the first week of October.
Clearly, the Asian countries have found a way to bring football back while ensuring maximum security for the players and staff involved. India can take a leaf out of these books ahead of the start of the new I-League and Indian Super League (ISL) season when it comes to security protocols.