• Kyodo


J. League first-division sides stepped up their preparations on Saturday to resume the season a day after the announcement of a July 4 restart.

J. League Chaiman Mitsuru Murai revealed the resumption date following a meeting with club executives, leaving teams around five weeks to prepare.

All up, the league will have been out of action for around four months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Urawa Reds manager Tsuyoshi Otsuki said the announcement had given clubs a concrete timeframe around which to base their preparations.

"Now we can make the necessary decisions around building our team," Otsuki said in an online interview. "Building on the progress we've already made, we can set a target of being ready on July 4."

With clubs training behind closed doors to prevent the spread of infection, Oita Trinita gave fans a glimpse inside via their official YouTube account.

"We know what our goals are. We'll do everything we can to make a strong start," said manager Tomohiro Katanosaka, whose side finished a respectable ninth in their return to J1 last season.

Shimizu S-Pulse, in their first season under Australian manager Peter Cklamovski, are among a number of clubs that will resume team practice on June 1.

An assistant with champions Yokohama F. Marinos last year, Cklamovski said he would take a cautious approach in light of the health risks after a long layoff, highlighted by a number of injuries suffered by players in Germany, where the Bundesliga recently resumed.

The league appears to have the strong backing of players and clubs for its plan to conduct polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests on all players, staff and match officials before the restart and retest them at two-week intervals.

"I think it's a really good idea," Shonan Bellmare veteran Naoki Ishihara said. "I'm thankful to even have a little extra peace of mind."

The J1 kicked off its season on Feb. 21, followed by the J2 two days later, but the league suspended play on Feb. 26, just before an anticipated surge in novel coronavirus infections across Japan.

The J2 will resume on June 27, while the J3 will start its season the same day. All three tiers will initially play behind closed doors.

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