Uncertainty surrounds the scheduling of next week’s AFC Women’s Olympic qualifying Asia tournament in Sydney after Australian government authorities announced midweek that Chinese team will be required to remain in quarantine beyond the scheduled start of the tournament which was to begin in Campbelltown, NSW this Monday.
Just as the Matildas were preparing to follow in the footsteps of the Olyroos in attempting to qualify for the 2020 Japan Olympics, the FFA has announced that ticket sales will not commence as scheduled.
The outbreak and rapid spread of the coronavirus, first prompted the Chinese Football Association to relocate the tournament from Wuhan province, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, before events developed rapidly forcing the Chinese Football Association to withdraw as host.
In what was a boon to the Matildas and the FFA, the AFC determined the qualifying tournament be relocated from China to Sydney. The AFC’s decision to relocate the tournament prompted Football Federation Australia chairman Chris Nikou to remark on the importance which the FFA places on the safety of all players, officials and fans. “We are confident we will host a successful tournament here in Sydney,” he said. “I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Australian Government in enabling FFA to host this event at short notice.”
The move also provided the FFA an opportunity to demonstrate its credentials in staging a tournament as part of its joint bid with New Zealand to host the 2023 FIFA Womens World Cup.
However, since then, as more comes to light about the extent, and the nature of the virus and how it spreads, the Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy advised authorities that the carriers of the virus can be contagious without showing symptoms, and those who have been in contact with confirmed cases, should be isolated.
It prompted Australian government health authorities to place the Chinese women’s team (which arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday for the Sydney tournament) to be isolated in strict quarantine in a Brisbane Hotel. Subsequently, Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young said the Chinese team will have to stay in isolation until Wednesday 5 February, two days after their scheduled opening match of the tournament against Thailand on Monday.
At the time of writing, it remains unclear what effect this will have on the scheduling of the tournament. An FFA statement released late on Wednesday said the “FFA is working with the Australian Government and AFC to explore the ramifications of this advice and how it may affect the staging of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Qualifiers.”
It’s quite possible that the Matilda’s scheduled opening match against Taiwan, on Monday will proceed as planned. The Matildas were scheduled to then play Thailand on Thursday followed by their last match of the tournament against China, next Sunday.