The J. League on Friday announced the postponement of another first-division fixture related to the coronavirus crisis, with the Aug. 29 game between Shonan Bellmare and Sagan Tosu pushed back to a later date.
According to the league, the decision was made due to the short preparation time Tosu would have following the expected lifting of its suspension of team activities.
Based on instructions from local health officials, the earliest Tosu players will be able to train on the pitch is Aug. 26, giving them just two days to train before traveling east for the game at BMW Stadium in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
“The timeline for Tosu returning to action is becoming clearer, and in considering the condition of the players we decided that the Aug. 29 game would be too soon,” J. League Vice Chairman Hiromi Hara told a news conference. “For them to return to training for two days, then travel to Kanto and play would be difficult.”
The team has been under lockdown since Aug. 12, when a cluster infection was discovered among players and staff. Manager Kim Myung-hwi tested positive two days earlier for the virus after complaining of symptoms resembling heat exhaustion.
Hara, a former Japan international who also managed the Urawa Reds and FC Tokyo, expressed sympathy for Kim, whose decision to take part in Tosu’s Aug. 8 game against the Kashima Antlers despite the discomfort has led to criticism.
“As a former manager playing this many games over the summer, sometimes I’d wonder if I had a fever,” Hara said. “Now we have the coronavirus to worry about, but under normal circumstances it’s hard to decide whether or not to stop (coaching).
“Depending on how the game went, sometimes you’d feel like a fever. Once you’re asked about your symptoms you can look back and say that in retrospect you did feel something. I’m sure it was difficult for (Kim).
On Tuesday, Sagan announced that tests on 123 players, staff and immediate family members conducted by the league had come back negative. They will be tested again on Monday. Hara said he expected that around a week on the pitch would be enough time for the players to return to competition.
“If they had a game on Sept. 2 they would at least be able to train for five days and we think they’d be able to play, Harada said.
Tosu’s next scheduled game is Sept. 5 at home against Yokohama FC.
The Kyushu club currently sits 17th in the top flight with seven points from nine games. The J. League decided not to implement relegation this season in response to the effects of the pandemic on its competitions.