Hopes of CSL re­turn grow

Pretoria News - - SPORT - RUGBY

CHI­NESE foot­ball is inch­ing to­wards a re­turn to ac­tion, with teams re­sum­ing train­ing this week, though ques­tions re­main over when ex­actly the coun­try’s top flight can kick off its coro­n­avirus-de­layed 2020 cam­paign.

Chi­nese Su­per League clubs started to re­turn to train­ing on Mon­day, two months af­ter the league’s orig­i­nally sched­uled start date of Fe­bru­ary 22 but still some time be­fore the new sea­son is likely to be­gin.

While mid-April was pre­vi­ously touted as a pos­si­ble date for the CSL’s re­turn, the pos­i­tive test re­turned at the week­end by former Manch­ester United mid­fielder Marouane Fel­laini may well have pushed that back.

Foot­ball has been put on hold through­out the re­gion due to the pan­demic, with Ja­pan de­lay­ing the restart of its top flight to May 9.

But no mat­ter the date, play­ers and coach­ing staff are back on the train­ing pitch in China af­ter spend­ing much of the year hun­kered down over­seas.

“We trained at a mod­est level, mainly fo­cus­ing on strength and con­di­tion­ing,” Shang­hai SIPG de­fender Yu Hai told Shang­hai TV af­ter his club’s open­ing ses­sion on Mon­day.

“It’s the first day that we are back to train­ing, and the in­ten­sity will be grad­u­ally in­creased for sure.

“We are pro­fes­sional play­ers, we should be able to over­come what­ever ob­sta­cles lie in front of us. I be­lieve with ef­fort from ev­ery­one at the club we can stick to­gether and over­come this dif­fi­cult pe­riod to­gether.”

All 16 CSL clubs are now back in China while the na­tional team, which was train­ing in the United Arab Emi­rates in prepa­ra­tion for now post­poned World Cup qual­i­fy­ing matches, de­camped to the south­ern is­land of Hainan over the week­end.

At SIPG’s train­ing ses­sion, tele­vi­sion pic­tures showed play­ers keep­ing their dis­tance from one an­other at the club’s train­ing fa­cil­ity in the Pudong dis­trict, both on the pitch as they per­formed stretch­ing drills and in the gym.

Head coach Vi­tor Pereira and his as­sis­tants did not join the ses­sion as they re­main in iso­la­tion fol­low­ing their re­turn to China, a fa­mil­iar story for the for­eign coaches and play­ers who have re­turned to the coun­try.

Many re­main out­side China how­ever, and as a re­sult the like­li­hood of a mid-April start has re­ceded.

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