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Chinese football return still unclear after border closure

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With the coronavirus situation calming down across China, there had been hopes of starting the 2020 football season in the near future.

Chinese football teams conducting their pre-season training camps across the world all returned home over the past few weeks, with normality beginning to return slowly across a number of cities and provinces.

Hope began to build that competitive football matches could resume within a month or two, but that appears to have been dashed after the country’s recent decision to close the border to all international flights.

While all Chinese clubs had returned, a number of foreign players and coaches remain outside, attempting to obtain the necessary visas that would allow them to come and play for their new clubs.

The last club to return to China, Changchun Yatai, had just one foreign player arrive in the country before the shutdown. Serginho is reportedly now in Tianjin in quarantine for the mandated 14 days, while both Alan Olanare and Lucas Souza remain in their home countries.

Only players and coaches that previously obtained visas were able to return in time, with some high-profile managers such as Beijing Guo’an’s Bruno Genesio and Tianjin TEDA’s Uli Stielike now unable to link up with their players.

A trio of Shanghai SIPG foreign players were able to return to the middle kingdom, narrowly missing the shutdown implementation by around ten minutes according to reports in the country.

Hulk, Oscar and Ricardo Lopes will be placed in 14-day quarantine before being able to join the rest of the Chinese high-flyers in preparations for the new season.

While some have managed to return, there is a clear majority that will have to wait it out at home, with no clear date yet for a possible opening of the borders.

With many of the top players in the league unable to return, this is likely to postpone the start of the new season once again, with a start date of June or even July a more realistic timeframe.

James Reeve is a British sports writer and the correspondent on Changchun Yatai for Wild East Football. James has followed the club since 2012, lived in the North-Eastern city between August 2013 and March 2018 and was a season ticket holder for the 2015 CSL campaign.

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