Sports: Coronavirus threatens Matildas’ Olympics qualifying tournament

The Matildas’ qualification tournament for this year’s Olympics are in doubt amid fresh concerns about the potentially lethal coronavirus.

Just hours after announcing the schedule for next week’s six matches involving Australia, Thailand, Taiwan and China, FFA announced they would not start selling tickets on Thursday as planned.

The decision was taken after Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy advised authorities evidence suggested coronavirus is contagious before people show symptoms, and contacts of any confirmed cases must now be isolated following exposure.

China’s women’s team arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday morning but have since been placed in isolation at their hotel

Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young said while the team’s players, coaches and officials were healthy they had recently visited Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak.

Dr Young said the team would have to stay in isolation until February 5, which is two days after the tournament is set to start with a double-header at Campbelltown Stadium.

China are scheduled to play Thailand on Monday with Australia facing Taiwan in their opening fixture.

“FFA is working with the Australian Government and AFC to explore the ramifications of this advice and how it may affect the staging of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Qualifiers,” a statement released late on Wednesday said.

An official with the Chinese FA told AAP the team hadn’t shown any indications of the virus before departing for Australia.

She said the 21 players, coaches and officers had all undergone testing with negative results.

China have also travelled to Australia without several players including key players Wang Shuang and Yao Wei.

The pair, along with at least two others, had returned to their homes in and around Wuhan for Chinese New Year celebrations and due to local travel restrictions were unable to rejoin the squad.

Wang has played over 100 matches for the Steel Roses, scoring 28 goals, while Yao was a member of last year’s World Cup squad and has made 22 international appearances.

Wuhan was the original location for the Group B fixtures before they were relocated to Nanjing and then Sydney after China withdrew as hosts at the weekend.

Despite the uncertainty of the event, experienced Matildas’ midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight praised officials for making player safety a priority.

“We’re extremely thankful for the AFC and the FFA for putting player welfare at the forefront,” Kellond-Knight said.

“It’s an extremely difficult scenario. We understand that China had the rights to hold these qualifiers but unfortunately – because of unpredictable circumstances – we haven’t been able to go to China.”  (foxsports)
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