With no additional COVID-19 infections, S. Korea to play football friendly vs. Qatar as scheduled

November 16, 2020

 On the heels of a recent coronavirus outbreak, South Korea will play their men’s football friendly match against Qatar as scheduled on Tuesday in Austria, with no more additional infections among players.

South Korean men's national football team players train at BSFZ-Arena at Maria Enzersdorf-Sudstadt in Maria Enzersdorf, Austria, on Nov. 13, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
South Korean men's national football team players huddle around their head coach Paulo Bento (C) during practice at BSFZ-Arena at Maria Enzersdorf-Sudstadt in Maria Enzersdorf, Austria, on Nov. 12, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
Hwang Ui-jo of South Korea (L) celebrates his goal against Mexico with teammate Son Heung-min during the teams' friendly match at Stadion Wiener Neustadt in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, on Nov. 14, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
South Korean midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon trains with the men's national football team at BSFZ-Arena at Maria Enzersdorf-Sudstadt in Maria Enzersdorf, Austria, on Nov. 9, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

South Korean men’s national football team players train at BSFZ-Arena at Maria Enzersdorf-Sudstadt in Maria Enzersdorf, Austria, on Nov. 13, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced Monday that one national team staff member tested positive for COVID-19 following the latest test on Sunday in Vienna, but no player joined six teammates who had been infected earlier.

South Korea and Qatar will play at 2 p.m. Tuesday at BSFZ Arena Admiral Stadium in Maria Enzersdorf, near Vienna. That’s 10 p.m. Tuesday in Seoul.

Early Saturday in Korean time, the KFA said four players and one national team staffer had tested positive for COVID-19 after undergoing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on Thursday in Austria. They were all asymptomatic.

The players were: Busan IPark forward Lee Dong-jun, SC Freiburg midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon, FC Rubin Kazan midfielder Hwang In-beom and Ulsan Hyundai FC goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo.

Those who had tested negative earlier were tested again Saturday, and two more players — Busan defender Kim Moon-hwan and Seongnam FC forward Na Sang-ho — tested positive.

The rest of the team underwent another PCR test Sunday night, and one staffer tested positive.

Under FIFA match regulations during the pandemic, a team can still play as long as 13 healthy players, including one goalkeeper, are available.

South Korea played Mexico on Saturday with 19 healthy players on hand and lost 3-2.

The KFA also said Monday it is in talks with relevant authorities to move players and coaches out of Austria as quickly as possible following the Qatar match. Austria will go into a three-week lockdown starting Tuesday.

The KFA is also trying to facilitate travel for those who have tested positive, once they serve their mandatory 10-day quarantine. They have been staying in their hotel rooms in Vienna.

The KFA noted that travel schedules will vary for players, because countries have different sets of travel regulations during the pandemic. For instance, Kwon Chang-hoon, one of six players to be infected, returned to Germany in a specially-arranged quarantine vehicle on Sunday, after his German club SC Freiburg reached an agreement with the Austrian health authorities.

Among other national team players, members of K League clubs competing in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League will travel back to Qatar to join their teammates in the Doha bubble. Those teams are: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Ulsan Hyundai FC and FC Seoul. Two Qatar Stars League players, Jung Woo-young and Nam Tae-hee of Al Sadd, will also fly directly back to the Middle Eastern nation.

There are also players based in England, France, Spain and Russia.

The KFA had set strict protocols for the team to ensure health and safety. The team rented an entire floor of its Vienna hotel, and its members have been confined to their rooms, the training facility and the match venue so far. A national team chef traveled with the team to prepare meals at the hotel, so that players and coaches wouldn’t go out to eat.

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