MADRID — Two Europa League matches scheduled to be played in Spain and Italy on Thursday have been postponed because of traveling restrictions prompted by the coronavirus outbreak, UEFA said Wednesday.
The governing body of European soccer said the games between Sevilla and Roma in Spain, and Inter Milan and Getafe in Italy “will not take place as scheduled.”
“Further decisions on the two matches will be communicated in due course,” UEFA said.
Italian soccer club Roma had said earlier Wednesday it would not make its trip to Seville because “the plane from Italy was not authorized to land in Spain.” Getafe president Ángel Torres had said his team would not travel to Italy because he did not want to risk his players’ health by going to an area struggling to contain the spread of the virus.
The spreading virus has affected sports around the world, forcing many professional soccer games in Europe to be played in empty stadiums and canceling dozens of other events from tennis to gymnastics. It’s also put into question whether Tokyo will be able to host the Olympics in July and August.
On Tuesday, Spain announced that all sports events with a significant number of people must be played without fans, while Italy on Monday suspended all sporting events until April 3. Italy is the country with the most coronavirus cases in Europe.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
UEFA’s decision to postpone the Europa League matches came a day after the Italian and Spanish players’ associations asked the governing body to suspend games featuring clubs from those countries. They said the games should be played only when safety conditions are more appropriate.
FIFPRO, the international soccer players’ union, requested that teams and organizers respect the wishes of players who want to stop playing because of the virus.
“We support the players and their associations who have requested a suspension or postponement of football activities in their countries or regions,” the union said in a statement.
SOCCER IN GERMANY
Officials in Frankfurt gave the go-ahead to have fans at Eintracht Frankfurt’s Europa League game against Basel on Thursday, but not for the Bundesliga game on Sunday against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Basel previously said it won’t be able to host the return game against Eintracht amid concerns over the virus.
All Bundesliga games scheduled for this weekend will be played without spectators with the possible exception of Augsburg’s game against Wolfsburg on Sunday. Officials in Berlin overruled Union Berlin’s plan to host Bayern Munich on Saturday with fans in the stadium.
Greek club Olympiakos is expected to play its Europa League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday despite owner Evangelos Marinakis saying he has tested positive for the disease. Olympiakos said tests on players, coaches, medical and technical staff were negative.
PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE
A player for second-division German team Hannover has tested positive for the virus. The club said defender Timo Hübers has not displayed symptoms of infection and is staying at home. Hannover said all its players and staff would now be tested.
Last week, former professional soccer player Thomas Kahlenberg tested positive for the virus. Kahlenberg represented Denmark at the 2010 World Cup.
FED CUP POSTPONED
The Fed Cup Finals in Hungary were postponed after the local government said it was prohibiting public indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. The International Tennis Federation said it would try to find another suitable date for the women’s tennis competition.
FIFA CONGRESS POSTPONED
The FIFA Congress in Ethiopia was rescheduled from June 5 to Sept. 18 because of “concern over the health and well-being of participants, as well as travel restrictions in many countries.”
FIFA said it wants to organize the event when “all member associations are able to attend.”
The world soccer body also said the FIFA Council meeting planned for March 20 has been rescheduled to a date yet to be confirmed in June or July. It said the meeting will take place in Zurich or via video conference.
The Italian soccer federation ordered Italy’s women’s team to return home before the end of the Algarve Cup tournament in Portugal fearing it would not be able to get a flight back. On Wednesday, the Portuguese soccer federation canceled the final between Italy and Germany.
FRENCH LEAGUE CUP FINAL
The French League Cup final between Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, scheduled for April 4, was postponed. A new date has yet to be announced.
On Tuesday, the French soccer league announced that all soccer matches in its top two divisions will be played without fans until April 15.
Fans can still attend professional soccer games in Belgium but the league recommends that ill people follow matches from home and that clubs hosting matches try to avoid as much as possible “moments when people are close to each other.”
Russian league games in Moscow will be limited to 5,000 people in the stadium under new health regulations in the capital. Besides fans, that includes players, team staff, stadium employees and security.
Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Muharrem Kasapoglu said the country is postponing sports competitions that were scheduled for March and April but soccer league games “will continue as planned” with fans in attendance.
Turkey is due to host the Champions League final in Istanbul on May 30.
The International Gymnastics Federation said it was postponing two World Cup events due to start next week. One is an all-around competition in Stuttgart, Germany, and other is an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar. They double as Olympic qualifiers. The federation said it was also postponing a rhythmic gymnastics World Cup event and a trampoline World Cup event. Both were due to be held in Italy next month.
The Indian Open golf tournament was postponed and the Czech Masters was canceled, while remaining games in the Slovakian hockey league were called off, MotoGP’s Argentina Grand Prix was postponed until November and the Vienna Marathon was canceled.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni