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City refuses to host Olympic football qualifier following coronavirus outbreak

South Korean athletes celebrate 3-0 victory in a match against Vietman in the Group A match of the third round of Asian qualifying for 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics at Jeju World Stadium in Jeju Islan on Feb. 9. (Yonhap)
South Korean athletes celebrate 3-0 victory in a match against Vietman in the Group A match of the third round of Asian qualifying for 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics at Jeju World Stadium in Jeju Islan on Feb. 9. (Yonhap)

A South Korean city told the national football federation on Wednesday that it won't host an upcoming Olympic football qualifying match following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus there.

Yongin, located about 50 kilometers south of Seoul, was scheduled to stage an Olympic women's football qualifying match between South Korea and China on March 6. It is the first leg of the home-and-home playoff round between the two, with the winner securing a spot at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chinese home leg scheduled for March 11 has already been moved to Sydney, Australia. Given the recent surge in infections in South Korea, the Korea Football Association proposed holding the Yongin match behind closed doors. But Yongin reported its first case last Sunday and another on Wednesday, prompting its officials to reject the KFA's offer.

The KFA maintained that the match must stay in South Korea, even if it is played without spectators for safety reasons.

One possible option is to play the Sydney match first and then push the South Korean home leg to beyond March. On FIFA's calendar, there is a women's international match window from April 6-14. The KFA said it will remain in close coordination with its Chinese counterpart over possible rescheduling.

Coached by Englishman Colin Bell, South Korea are ranked 20th in the world, five spots below China. In 37 all-time meetings, South Korea have four wins, six draws and 27 losses against China.

Women's football joined the Olympics in 1996, and South Korea have never played in the quadrennial event. (Yonhap)
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