January 30, 2020 / 11:45 PM / 23 days ago

Soccer-Olympic qualifying dates reshuffled due to coronavirus

SYDNEY, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Organisers of the women's Olympics soccer qualifying tournament that was hastily moved to Sydney following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus have been forced to shuffle the matches due to quarantine restrictions on China's players.

The four-team tournament involving China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand was moved from Wuhan -- the centre of the outbreak of the virus -- to Australia by the Asian Football Confederation.

More than 200 people in China have died from the flu-like virus with almost 6,000 affected after it emerged late last year in Wuhan in the central Hubei province.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a public health emergency.

China's women's team, who arrived in Australia on Jan. 29, have been placed in quarantine in Brisbane until after Feb. 5. None of the players has tested positive for the virus, according to the Chinese Football Association.

They had originally been scheduled to play their first game against Thailand on Feb. 3, but organisers said on Friday they would now play their first game on Feb. 6.

An additional match day of Feb. 12, when China play Australia, had now been scheduled, Football Federation Australia (FFA) said in a statement on Friday.

"As always, the health of everyone involved, from players and officials to the fans and contractors, remains the number one priority," said FFA Chief Executive James Johnson.

"This new format allows us to stage these matches with that priority in mind and we now look forward to welcoming all teams and hosting a successful tournament."

Several other international sports events, including qualifying tournaments in boxing and basketball for this year's Tokyo Olympics, have been cancelled, postponed or moved from China because of the outbreak.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sam Holmes

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