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4 players, 1 staffer on S. Korean nat'l football team test positive for COVID-19

South Korean men’s national football team (Yonhap)
South Korean men’s national football team (Yonhap)

Four players and one staff member on the South Korean men’s national football team have tested positive for the novel coronavirus while in Austria to play friendly matches.

The Korea Football Association said Saturday that forward Lee Dong-jun, midfielders Kwon Chang-hoon and Hwang In-beom, goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo, and an unidentified staffer tested positive for COVID-19 after undergoing polymerase chain reaction test at 5 p.m. Thursday in Austria.

The team has been staying in Vienna since earlier this week to prepare for matches against Mexico on Saturday and Qatar on Tuesday.

The KFA said all five are asymptomatic, and the rest of the team and all other staff members are being quarantined in their hotel rooms.

Those who have tested negative are scheduled to be tested again at 8 a.m. Saturday local time, and the status of the upcoming matches will be determined depending on their results, the KFA added.

The Mexico match is set for 9 p.m. Saturday locally (5 a.m.

Sunday in Seoul), and the next one against Qatar is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Austria (10 p.m. Tuesday in South Korea).

These are the first international contests for the men‘s national team, whose previous action came at the East Asian Football Federation E-1 Football Championship in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in December 2019.

The last time South Korea, coached by Paulo Bento, played overseas was in November last year, when the Taeguk Warriors faced Brazil in Abu Dhabi.

Jo is the starting goalkeeper for the South Korean club Ulsan Hyundai FC, and Lee plays for another domestic side, Busan IPark.

Kwon is based in Germany, playing for SC Freiburg, and Hwang In-beom is playing in Russia for FC Rubin Kazan.

The KFA had set strict protocols for the team to ensure players’ and staffers‘ health and safety. The team rented an entire floor of its Vienna hotel, and its members have been confined to their rooms and the training facility 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 find things to eat.

Of the four players, Kwon and Hwang are still in the middle of their club seasons. Jo and Ulsan are scheduled to resume their group stage play at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League, the continent‘s top club tournament, starting next Saturday in a Qatar bubble. (Yonhap)

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