By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – The coronavirus outbreak led to more soccer postponements around Europe on Wednesday while travel and quarantine restrictions posed potential problems for international matches even in regions which have so far been less affected.
Spain’s Copa del Rey final, due to be played on April 18, was called off and French media reported that the country’s League Cup final between Paris St Germain and Olympique Lyonnais had also been postponed.
Spain was due to hold a meeting on Thursday to decide whether La Liga matches, which are to be played behind closed doors for at least two weeks, should be postponed altogether following a request from the players’ union.
UEFA was forced to call off Thursday’s Europa League round of 16 first-leg matches between Inter Milan and Getafe at San Siro and Sevilla against AS Roma at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium.
AS Roma said they could not travel after the Spanish government banned flights from Italy — Europe’s worst-hit country — while Getafe refused to go to Milan, saying they were prepared forfeit the tie.
The Gazzetta dello Sport said both matches could be played as single-leg ties on neutral territory.
Meanwhile, North Macedonia’s federation said it had written to UEFA asking for a postponement of its team’s Euro 2020 playoff match at home to Kosovo on March 26.
Besides a government ban on spectators, the federation said there was a potential problem with players arriving from countries in a high-risk zone being ordered into quarantine.
North Macedonia have three Italian-based players — Ilija Nestorovski, Elif Elmas and Goran Pandev — while Kosovo’s Amir Rrahmani, who plays for Verona, would also be affected.
Chile’s health minister said that top players Alexis Sanchez, based in Italy, and Arturo Vidal, based in Spain, would both be quarantined if they returned home for this month’s World Cup qualifiers. Several other Chilean players are also based in Italy and Spain.
The opening two rounds of the South American competition are due to take place this month. Chile’s first home game is against Colombia on March 31, although there was no mention of whether the quarantine would apply to Colombian players.
Argentina’s government has banned all international sporting events this month, although the national team’s soccer World Cup qualifier at home to Ecuador on March 26 is not affected at this stage. Argentina and Colombia are due to jointly host the Copa America in June and July.
South American governing body CONMEBOL said it had been asked many questions about the qualifiers but emphasized that the final decision lay with FIFA.
FIFA has postponed all Asian World Cup qualifiers scheduled for this month and June, although it said matches can go ahead with the approval of both countries involved.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)