Basketball: Chinese Basketball Association league restarts after five-month virus stoppage
SHANGHAI (AFP) – The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league resumed on Saturday (June 20) behind closed doors after a five-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, just as the country battles a new cluster of infections in Beijing.
There was a sombre moment of silence at the arena in the north-eastern city of Qingdao as the CBA became the first major sports league to restart in China, where the deadly virus emerged late last year before spreading worldwide.
The league has been split into two groups as part of measures to ensure player safety – one group playing games in Qingdao and the other in the southern city of Dongguan.
All games will be played without fans, in line with sports around the world trying to reboot the action even as the virus continues to infect and kill thousands.
The first match of the restart was between Nanjing Monkey Kings and Zhejiang Guangsha Lions.
Before the game, players from both teams stood with their heads bowed for a period of silence in remembrance of those who died in recent months of the disease.
Match officials on the sidelines and a smattering of others allowed into the arena wore face masks, while an electronic screen showed fans watching remotely.
When the CBA was brought to a halt on Feb 1, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in China, defending champions Guangdong Southern Tigers topped the standings after 30 matches.
More than half of the 20 teams in the CBA will compete without foreign players because most overseas visitors cannot enter China because of coronavirus travel restrictions.
China has seen a marked decline in the number of infections, but is now concerned about a recent surge in Beijing.
On Saturday, the country reported 23 new domestically transmitted infections, all but one in the capital.
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