Several World Cups that were to play in China were moved to Dubai on Monday due to coronavirus infections in the Syrian and Maldives teams, the Chinese Football Association said. Seven Group A matches involving China, Syria, the Maldives, the Philippines and Guam are affected, furthering devastation with the already severely disrupted qualifying World Cup in Qatar in 2022. “In view of the recent epidemic infections in the Maldives and Syrian national football teams, they must be strictly quarantined and may not take part in the matches as scheduled,” the CFA said in a statement. “According to the recommendations of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation), the Chinese FA has agreed that the remaining qualifying matches … will not be held in Suzhou and will be transferred to Dubai and held there,” he added. The games would take place over the next two weeks in a safe “bubble” in the Chinese city of Suzhou. The AFC has stopped confirming that Dubai will now host the matches and says in a statement that it will take place at a neutral venue, which will be decided and announced in the coming days’.
It added: “The decision was taken because of the increasing challenges facing several participating teams to travel to China.” According to China’s Titan Sports, the Maldives and Syria are in Dubai and permission has been denied to leave for China. Ali Ashfaq, the striker from the Maldives, tweeted that he tested positive and would not play in the heat. China, who beat Guam 7-0 on Sunday, would face the Maldives on Thursday, while Syria and the Maldives would play on June 7. China is second in the group behind Syria and is fighting to keep their World Cup hopes alive. The matches serve as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup in China. “The Chinese Football Association will do everything in its power to prepare for the matches,” the CFA said. The AFC said it hopes to stick to the original schedule, with the final round matches on June 15.