Soccer-Chinese Super League resumption postponed

BEIJING, June 22 (Reuters) - The resumption of Chinese Super League had been postponed, probably until the end of July, because the national team players who got China through to the third round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 World Cup are in quarantine.

The Chinese top flight was scheduled to resume after a one-month break on Monday with eight-time champions Guangzhou FC taking on Chongqing Athletic and Qingdao FC to face Henan Longmen but the matches were called off.

“We are researching three specific plans to make the Super League work in this year’s special situation,” Chen Xuyuan, Chairman of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), told state news agency Xinhua on Monday.

“We will also seek the clubs’ opinions and eventually come up with a generally accepted plan for the Super League.”

China successfully qualified for the final phase of Asia’s qualifying tournament for Qatar 2022 last week in games staged in the United Arab Emirates, leaving the national team squad in quarantine in Suzhou and unable to play for 21 days.

Chen said the CSL was the foundation of Chinese football and the CFA had no choice but to suspend it while national team players were unavailable.

A source familiar with the matter said CFA officials were meeting on Tuesday to discuss the restructuring of the season.

The opening five rounds of the Chinese Super League were held in April and May in bio-secure venues in Suzhou and Guangzhou, with the 16 teams split into two groups.

The source said one of the plans the CFA were considering was a return to the traditional home-and-away format for the rest of the season with a limited number of fans allowed in stadiums. The World Cup qualifiers will resume in September with the draw for the third round matches taking place on July 1.

Another source said China’s success in reaching the third round meant the original structure of the season was no longer viable.

“The new plan is not out yet, but it’s assumed that the matches will resume at the end of July,” the source said. (Reporting by Pei Li in Hong Kong, Martin Quin Pollard and Sophie Yu in Beijing, writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)