Coronavirus failings could set back Asian football, union boss warns

The official match ball is displayed during the AFC Champions League group A football match between al-Wahda FC and al-Ahli FC at al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi on February 10, 2020. (Photo by – / AFP)

Asian football risks throwing away years of progress if leagues and clubs fail to look after their players during the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the global footballers’ union has warned.

Talent pools will dwindle and foreign imports will dry up if players continue to face pay cuts and instability, FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told AFP.

He highlighted the example of Indonesia, saying a “unilateral decision” to slash players’ wages by three-quarters had caused “quite severe hardship”.

“If it’s not a sustainable career, people will simply stop. That’s the reality,” Baer-Hoffmann said in a phone interview.

“But also I think more broadly there’s something at stake in terms of being a desired destination for foreign players,” he added.

“These are destinations that players may be fearful of going to if they can’t be certain that they receive their wages, if they can’t be certain about clubs respecting their contracts, if they can’t be certain about the league operating effectively.”

Baer-Hoffmann said players around the world had been thrown into uncertainty by the coronavirus, which closed down most professional sport for months. Footballers needed food hand-outs in some countries, he said.

He added that players “simply cannot afford” the major pay cuts in Indonesia, which come despite the fact that many clubs have “very wealthy owners”.

Baer-Hoffmann also criticized the Asian Football Confederation, saying the regional body had failed to respond to the needs of vulnerable players.

“We would have liked to see the confederation (AFC) involved in some of these really drastic negative situations on the domestic level,” Baer-Hoffmann said.

“Unfortunately, engagement with

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Sityodtong won’t strip Lee of atomweight title

ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong. Photo from ONE Championship

MANILA, Philippines—Angela Lee will remain as ONE Championship’s atomweight champion despite her prolonged absence from the sport due to pregnancy, as CEO Chatri Sityodtong directed.

Sityodtong said that he won’t ask Lee to vacate the belt as he kept the promotion’s ideal of not stripping anyone of their championship status.

This development came after no.1 contender Denice Zamboanga told Lee to vacate her title during her pregnancy to allow the other contenders in the division to fight for the belt during her absence.

“It is not right to take away someone’s greatest achievement earned through a lifetime of sacrifice and hard work,” wrote Sityodtong on Facebook Friday. “I have no doubt Denice Zamboanga will face Angela Lee in the future.”

Lee and Zamboanga have been on a verbal back-and-forth with the latest jab coming from the champion calling the Filipino challenger “entitled” and that she should first win the Atomweight Grand Prix before she gets the championship fight.

Sityodtong ordered the Grand Prix while Lee and husband Bruno Pucci are pregnant with their first child.

“I am a big Denice fan. She is a young rising star with so much potential. I love her aggressive style and her big heart. In fact, she would be one of my favorites to win the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship. If she wins it, Denice will have the rare opportunity to become the first female in history to hold both titles (if she ends up beating Angela too),” said Sityodtong.

“If anything, winning the ultra-prestigious ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship would establish Denice as one of the best pound-for-pound female athletes in the world and erase her current status as a young rising star.”


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Another COVID-19 case at Mercedes ahead of Eifel Grand Prix

NURBURG, Germany — The Mercedes team found a second coronavirus case among its staff at the Eifel Grand Prix and flew in emergency replacements Friday ahead of this weekend’s Formula One race.

Following a positive test on Thursday, Mercedes said the entire team at the Nurburgring was retested. That produced one positive result and another described as “inconclusive,” which requires another test.

Those people and other staff who had contact with them are in quarantine, and six replacements have flown in from the team’s base in Britain, team principal Toto Wolff said.

“Every loss of an important member in a garage affects a race, but I think we got it under control by having backup in Brackley and they came in,” Wolff said.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have minimum exposure to the other team staff because “it is really critical for the championship if you miss a race or two,” Wolff said.

“The drivers are the most restricted of the whole group, of the whole team. Certainly not a great situation for them because you almost have to live like a hermit,” he said.

Wolff said debriefs are carried out by video conference so “they’re not sitting with the engineers in the room, they’re in their own rooms.”

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez is the only driver to have tested positive for the virus this season. He missed two races in Britain in August and Nico Hulkenberg stepped in as a replacement.

Hamilton said Thursday that the first case at Mercedes was a reminder to take precautions against infection.

“It’s obviously important for everyone around the world to know … to be continuously reminded that this thing has not disappeared. It’s still here,” he said. “We still need to continue to follow protocols. And wear masks. And keep

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