AFC Champions League hailed a success by organisers despite COVID-19 pandemic
Qatar conducted a staggering 7,900 COVID-19 tests during the last three weeks of the Asian Football Confederation [AFC] Champions League games that were held in the country.
Test results showed just 96 positive COVID-19 cases and 56 reactive cases with mild symptoms.
Doha established a strict health and safety protocol since football teams began arriving in the capital for the regional tournament, in a bid to keep team players and officials safe from the virus throughout the tournament, Dr. Abdulwahab Almusleh, Senior Consultant to the Minister of Public Health (MOPH), said during a live webinar on Friday.
The webinar on Friday was titled ‘Hosting Mega Sporting Events in a COVID-19 World’ and the panellists discussed how Qatar put together a plan to conduct a safe AFC Champions League tournament despite the pandemic sweeping the globe.
“Among the various sub-groups associated with the tournament, the officials of the Asian Football Confederation [AFC], the Qatar Football Association [QFA], members of the Local Organising Committee [LOC], the hotel staffers and the players and backroom staff of teams were all tested often,” Almusleh said on Friday.
Avazbek Berdikulov, Deputy Director of the Competitions and Football Events Division at the AFC, on Friday lauded Qatar for its timely role in conducting the tournament.
AFC, FIFA and other bodies worked together to create their own set of guidelines when the decision to resume the AFC Champions League was taken.
“I can proudly say that AFC in cooperation with QFA and LOC, did a tremendous job of putting 16 clubs in one country,” said Berdilukov.
All teams were also sent written public health protocols ahead of the tournament. The guidelines detailed all aspects of COVID-19 that included prevention, mitigation, response and recovery from these diseases if any positive cases were found.
Teams were also asked to bring certificates of clearance on COVID-19 before they landed in Qatar and entered the “bubble-to-bubble areas.”
Despite strict precautionary measures, there were about five cases in one of the participating clubs. Players from the Saudi Al-Ahli club arrived with certificates of clearance given to them two days prior, but later tested positive.
— Doha News (@dohanews) September 12, 2020
“We identified the cases through a process called track and trace. That is part of MOPH guidelines. We got to know they tested positive one night prior to arriving here following a dinner ceremony (before flying out to Doha). So the first cluster was those six players and they were detected on Sept 11. We did the test and got the result in 6-8 hours,” Almusleh said.
The MOPH official said Qatar has emerged stronger and more confident about hosting top sports events in the future.
“If for any reason, a sports event happens in similar situations of a pandemic, the country is surely capable of managing it successfully,” Almusleh said.