MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals will have to wait for another chance to pick up a win in the FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers, while Ceres-Negros FC will be without its home crowd in their upcoming 2020 AFC Cup match.
In a statement released on Monday, March 9, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation have agreed to postpone the World Cup qualifying matches in March and in June due to the coronavirus outbreak, but games can still go ahead if both sides agree and safety standards are met.
But according to Philippine Football Federation (PFF) secretary-general Edwin Gastanes, Guam – which was slated to play against the Philippines on March 26 – did not allow its team to travel to the host country.
"Like this month, the Philippines Azkals were supposed to go against Guam, but two weeks ago, Guam said: ‘Sorry, we cannot go because of our coach and team management doesn’t want to get this [coronavirus] problem," said Gastanes in the chef de mission to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics press conference in the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
"World Cup qualifying matches will be rescheduled to a later month this year according to FIFA and AFC."
Philippines is bunched with group topper Syria, China, Guam and Maldives in Group A where the Azkals are running in 3rd.
The team will not host nor travel for friendlies, either.
Gastanes also said that the PFF will follow up on the World Cup qualifying home matches on June 4 against China and June 9 against Maldives, as well as the arrangement friendlies.
"With regards to friendlies, it’s safe to say that by March, we have no friendlies, we’ll see about June. We have to keep following up. We have to see about the World Cup qualifying matches in June if the teams will come here to play," added Gastanes.
The 2020 AFC Cup match between Ceres-Negros FC and Bali United hosted in the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, March 11, will not be open for public.
Football is one of the sports worst affected by the epidemic and especially in Asia, where the AFC Champions League and domestic competitions in China, Japan and South Korea are all on hold.
Some World Cup qualifying games, though, will go ahead during the upcoming international windows, when dozens of fixtures were planned across the Middle East and Asia.
The women's Olympic qualifying playoff between China and South Korea has been moved to June 1 and 9, while the AFC Futsal Championship in Turkmenistan has been postponed to August, the statement added.
"FIFA and the AFC will continue to assess the situation in relation to COVID-19 and will decide whether further changes to the schedule of Asian FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers are required," read the FIFA statement.
Philippines has 33 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday afternoon, while the global death toll passes 4,000. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.