The J. League on Wednesday night announced the postponement of Saturday's Levain Cup final following the emergence of a cluster infection among Kashiwa Reysol’s players and team staff.
The extraordinary decision came just three days before Reysol and FC Tokyo were to contend for the cup at Tokyo’s National Stadium in front of a sold-out, socially distanced crowd of 24,000.
Reysol tested 82 players and officials following the emergence of three infections related to the team earlier this week, including manager Nelsinho Baptista and a player. Eight staffers and two players tested positive, raising the total number of infections within the organization to 13.
According to Reysol, both players and seven of the staffers traveled via shinkansen to Sendai on Monday ahead of the team's scheduled J1 game against Vegalta Sendai. That fixture was postponed following the discovery of a positive case within the club. Nelsinho and the player tested positive on Tuesday.
“While more than 10 people have been infected, we still don’t know the route of infection,” J. League Chairman Mitsuru Murai said. “In order to protect the safety of the players we made the decision to postpone the match.
“We know that a lot of fans were looking forward to this match. … We’ll continue to work with the clubs in order to determine a new date.”
Kashiwa became the second J. League team to suffer a cluster infection following Sagan Tosu, which had six players and several staff members, including manager Kim Myung-hwi, test positive in August. Reysol president Ryuichiro Takikawa said the team would have struggled to field a squad with the league minimum of 14 players.
All but two of the infected parties recorded regular temperatures on Wednesday. Nelsinho, 70, is under observation at a local hospital.
Murai said that rescheduling the final “would not be simple,” citing Tokyo’s scheduled departure for Doha later this month to participate in the Asian Champions League as well as the conclusion of the J. League first-division season on Dec. 20 and the semifinals and final of the Emperor’s Cup on Dec. 27 and Jan. 1, respectively.
“We have to look at (rescheduling) from several angles. Reysol will need to isolate a lot of people and they won’t be able to play during that time,” Murai said. “The odds of holding the match in (2021) are not zero.”
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